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Red Ticket

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The first bell ends as soon as Eiji slides the door to his classroom open.

Kairo and Meri are sitting at the back of the room as usual. They are just staring at him, quiet and somber, and Eiji immediately knows that something has happened. He makes his way back to his desk, trying not to let their stares get to him.

The little red ticket sits nicely in the middle of his desk. Eiji doesn’t even bother removing his backpack, he just grabs it with both hands. He reads the inscription twice, looks back to the girls who are watching him with stunned expressions, then he turns, leaving the room again.

Eiji grips the ticket close to his chest as he walks. He’s not thinking. There isn’t much to think about yet, there is just obeying. His pace quickens just slightly as he makes his way to the tall grey building at the back of the campus and knocks on the red door at the end of a long hall.

A small window opens and a woman in white scrubs peeks her head out. “Do you have a ticket?” she asks.

Eiji passes the red ticket to her and waits for the door to open.

“Drop your belongings in the bin please.”

Eiji follows directions. Drops his backpack, shoes, and watch in the metal bin.

“Confirm your name please.”

“Okumura Eiji. ID OT573E.”

The woman nods and types something on her digital pad. She presents the screen to Eiji. He can see his name and date of birth. “Please press your finger to the screen for scanning.”

The pad flickers as it registers and confirms his identity. The woman smiles. “Congratulations, Mr. Okumura. Today you have been chosen to become a part of society. Please head to room D down the hall. There will be another bin inside the room, please remove your clothes once you enter.”

“Yes, ma’m.” Eiji nods and heads down another hall as directed. The plaques on each heavy metal door go by as he watches, A, B, C…

Eiji spots the bin immediately as he enters room D–directly to the right of the door. He quickly removes his clothes–first his blazer and shirt, followed by his pants and underwear.

The room is spotless and brightly lit. The white marble floors are so clean Eiji, can see his reflection in them. He’s not sure he wants to look. He’s always been uninteresting, always been...nothing.

The silver counter tops are cleaned off and in the middle of the room, there is a large metal slab.

A door on the far end of the room opens and Eiji catches his breath.

His heart suddenly starts thumping loudly.

His palms are starting to shake.

It’s Ash Lynx.

Ash Lynx.

Can Eiji really be this lucky?

“Welcome.” Ash smiles as he nods towards Eiji. His lab coat says Lynx directly above the left breast pocket. Ash opens a holo-screen where Eiji can see his information. “Okumura Eiji?”

Eiji nods feeling the warmth of blush on his cheeks and he’s suddenly hyper aware of his nudity.

“Please sit on the table,” Ash directs.

Eiji nods and hurries to the center of the room, hopping on the metal table. It’s not cold, like Eiji had assumed it would be, but comfortable. Eiji lies down on the table, watching Ash as he rolls a small cart toward the table, and begins to set out blades and tools.

A small bell chimes. Ash goes to the holo-screen and presses it. “Today is Wednesday, August 11th, 2155. Beginning record of disposal of Okumura Eiji. Chosen.” The screen flickers and fades. Ash moves down the table and steps ;up next to Eiji, right by his feet. Eiji feels a shiver as Ash grabs his ankle and runs a strap around his right leg, then his left.

His arms fill with goosebumps as Ash grabs his wrist and secures another strap to one side of the table, then moves and does the same to the other. There’s a strap that fits right over his head, tight against his temples, but not so tightly that he’s unable to move. Then, Ash moves to his side, pulling a long, thick strap that fits over his shoulders.

It’s not until that straps click into place, securing him completely to the table, that Eiji starts to feel it—a sudden trembling, a fluttering feeling against his chest.

“Are you okay?” Ash asks as he makes sure the strap is secure.

Eiji’s eyes are moving from side to side. He can’t see clearly anymore—was the room this blindingly bright before?

“Mr. Okumura? ...Eiji?”

“I’m okay,” Eiji answers, but his tongue feels thick in his mouth, his lips are dry, his throat hurts. And a feeling of wrongness spreads through his bones. It’s getting worse. “I…” Eiji starts, and he realizes that his breathing has quickened, that his heart is pounding against his chest so hard he can hear it thrumming in his ears. “I…”

“Hey,” Ash says. He clicks a pair of straps into place around Eiji’s thighs, and then steps into view. “Take a deep breath.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what this is...I’m sorry.” Eiji sweats. He can feel something wet and cold under his arms, he can feel it start to trickle down his temples, and with it comes a surge of heat.

“You’re scared,” Ash says matter of fact. “It’s alright. It’s just your body’s response to fear.”

“Fear? No. No, I–” Eiji tries to move his head to the side, but it’s secure now too—he can’t move it anywhere. He’s not scared. He’s known this was a possibility his entire life, he’s been ready for it, even looking forward to it, and now that it’s coming to fruition, now that he has Ash as his disposal officer... This is supposed to be a moment of joy. He’s fulfilling his duties, he’s being useful to his country, he’s lived for a purpose,

And he’s starting to cry.

“It’s okay,” Ash repeats.

Eiji wants to cry from the humiliation. He’s making a fool of himself. He’s making it seem like he wasn't proud to be chosen.

Ash just presses a cloth to his temple, dabbing the tears gently from Eiji’s face and wiping him clean again. “It’s completely normal,” Ash says. “The drugs will help. I’m getting ready to administer the first dose. Are you alright?”

Eiji forces his eyes to stay open, to stare at the ceiling above. It’s not fear. It’s not fear, it’s not fear, it’s not–

“It is fear,” Ash grabs a package from his tool cart and unwraps it, laying out a sterile needle and tubing. He rubs Eijis’s wrist gently.

Eiji realizes with horror that he’s spoken aloud.

“Please trust me that it is completely out of your control.” Ash presses his thumb against Eiji’s vein and inserts the needle. “Can you feel a warmth traveling up your arm, Eiji?”

Eiji focuses on that, focuses on the small pinch of the needle in his skin. He feels a pleasant warmth like Ash said, it starts to spread up his arm, throughout his chest, and down the rest of his body. “Yes,” he whispers.

“Good, good,” Ash smiles. “Just one more drug. A simple anticoagulant that will help everything clot quick enough so that you don’t lose too much blood, then we’ll be ready to begin, alright?”

“Okay,” Eiji nods. His voice rings in his ears, and his eyes are blinking slower and slower, and suddenly he realizes that the awfulness from before is completely gone, his body finally relaxed against the table.

Eiji waits as Ash leaves his field of vision. There’s no panic. He can hear the snap of gloves. The rattle of metal. Ash is preparing. Ash Lynx is preparing to dispose of him and it’s just…

It’s everything Eiji could have hoped for.

Ash comes back a few minutes later. “Alright,” he says. “You’re all set to begin.”

He’s a god.

Ash stands directly below the largest light and it bathes him in luminescence. His hair shines, golden and angelic, his eyes glint perfect green, and when he licks his lips, Eiji wants to moan.

Everyone knows Ash Lynx. He’s the best disposal officer the city has. Eiji’s watched him for years. Dreamed of him...

And now he’s lying, naked, on Ash’s table, underneath Ash’s gaze.

Ash pulls up his surgical mask, then picks up an instrument with a sharp metal wheel on the end.

“Ash?” Eiji asks. His voice sounds far away, quiet, lonely. He doesn’t think Ash has heard him, but then green eyes turn to him and the other man bends down, looking right at him.

“Yes, Eiji?”

“Can you…” Eiji swallows. “Can you tell me what you are doing? As you do it I mean?” The blush blooms again on his cheeks. “Can you just…” he’s not afraid anymore, the drugs have taken fear and anxiety, but he doesn’t want the end to come with silence.

“Oh.” Ash’s eyes light up. “Of course,” he answers and Eiji swears he can seem him smiling through the mask. Ash flicks the tool on and it starts to buzz.

“I’m starting with your left leg,” Ash says as he moves further down the table. Eiji sees Ash lowering the little saw down and then he feels it. The hint of heat close to his thigh.

Ash’s hand presses against Eiji’s belly, a heaviness and push against his internal organs. “It’s easiest to start with the larger limbs,” Ash says. “The coagulant in your system will last long enough for me to get through your body, but we put it to work the hardest here.”

Eiji sees the moment the whirring saw hits flesh—there’s a wet, tearing sound, and suddenly Ash’s white lab coat is splattered in dark red blood.

It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t tickle, it just...is a slight pushing sensation. Nothing bad. Nothing horrible. Almost pleasant.

The only bad thing is the sound. When the saw hits bone, Eiji can hear the way it grinds. There’s more pressure for a moment, and Ash really leans into him. Eiji takes in deep breaths. He can’t seem to draw in enough air, and he gasps just a minute, the room wavering around him.

Then Ash is through, the bone saw shuts off the moment it tears through the last of the flesh. Eiji hears Ash putting down the saw back on the cart, then loosening the strap on his leg, picking it up and putting it gently on a bin.

“Oh,” Ash starts, as though suddenly remembering his promise. “I’m sorry. It’s hard to think with the noise of that thing and the task at hand.” He nods pleasantly at Eiji. “”I cut through your femur just then,” Ash explains. “The coagulant is working beautifully. Your flesh is already knitting together. And your blood…”

Ash stops a moment and walks back towards the head of the table, near Eiji’s face. “Do you see this?” he asks.

He’s holding a hand in front of Eiji, and the glove is coated in thick blood. It drips once, then twice on Eiji’s chest, Eiji feels the warmth trickle down..

“This is perfect, Eiji,” Ash says proudly. “You are perfect.”

Eiji is so happy he thinks he might burst.

“I’m going to do the next leg, alright? Then we can start to work on your arms.”

Eiji nods his head the best he can through the straps. The joy is blossoming within him. He’s too overcome with emotion for words.

The right leg is the same. Ash leans into him, the bonesaw whirs, the grating sound runs for even longer this time, and it too, goes in a bin.

There is no pain. Just that pleasant pressure, that sound, and Eiji knows that he’s changed. He was chosen for this, and he’s fulfilling his purpose.

Ash works at the other end of the room for a while, taking each leg and cutting them into smaller pieces. Once, he comes over to the head of the table again, pulls up a stool, and holds something for Eiji to see.

“This is beautiful, Eiji. Your skin alone...it’s perfect. It’s supple and golden, and then this?”

Eiji’s blinking, his eyes trying to focus. He can hear the drip, drip, dripping on the floor of his own blood, and he knows that he’ll grow tired after a while, and then he’ll just fall asleep, never to wake again.

It’s so peaceful.

It’s supposed to be peaceful, and he’s just so happy that his body is pleasing to Ash. “What?” he pushes out, trying to remember the rest of the words, trying to fight past the pleasant fuzzing of his senses.

“This is a piece of your calf muscle,” Ash says. “Do you see how the lines of white are so thin? Do you see how the muscle pulls tight when I move it like—” he pulls at the piece of flesh. “This? Your flesh is absolutely stunning, Eiji.”

“Ah,” Eiji exhales and feels the warmth. He’s smiling. He’s so warm.

Ash cleans up and finishes with the legs. Eiji can see him shuck the blood spattered coat off his shoulders. It’s soaked through, pieces of viscera and meat clinging to the fabric still. Ash drops it into a recycling bin, and shrugs into a white apron this time that wraps around his entire body.

“Arms like to spurt,” Ash mentions, as though that’s all the reason Eiji needs.

He supposes it is.

Ash starts with a scalpel this time. He holds it over Eiji’s face, lets Eiji’s eyes trace the outline of the little blade before he pushes it into the meat of the shoulder.

“I want to keep your humerus intact. So it’s easiest to use a scalpel,” Ash says as he quietly carves away the flesh from Eiji’s arm. “Normally, I’d just use the bone saw again, or a hatchet for a quick cut, but your body is so perfect, I want to keep it as pristine as possible.”

Eiji doesn’t say anything, he just watches the way the knife dances on his flesh and cuts it away, watches the way that pieces of muscle and cartilage and meat disconnect from his body. It’s beautiful really. It’s as though Ash is carving art into his skin.

Eventually, a long white bone is exposed, and Eiji can even see the veins and arteries running along side it. Ash is so much an artist that he’s able to expose them without cutting. “Blue,” Eiji murmurs.

“Yes,” Ash says, still cutting away methodically. “Blue and red. Arteries and veins.”

The light is so bright, and Eiji is suddenly so tired.

Eventually the bone cutter comes again, severing his arm at the forearm. Then Ash very carefully leans into Eiji’s shoulder, pushing down and out quickly, and expertly.

There’s a loud pop in Eiji’s ear, and though he can only feel pressure, he knows that his shoulder bone has been dislocated. That it’s no longer attached to his body.

“Beautiful,” Ash exclaims softly, working the rest of the bone out of the remaining skin.

“Beautiful,” Eiji repeats, his eyes never leaving Ash’s face. His lips are so dry. His body feels distant. He turns his head just far enough to see Ash cutting away the flaps of skin that remain, and now his arm is gone too.

Ash is so pleased with him. To serve, he thinks. To help...to be useful...Ash says he’s beautiful.

“Eiji?” Ash asks.

Eiji’s eyes flutter open again. Ash is staring at him, holding another small piece of something, and as his eyes focus, he realizes it’s a hand.

“Are you too tired?” Ash asks. “I’m sorry. I thought you might be interested to see the joints inside here?” He holds the hand close, and Eiji can see. He can see the tiny little bones, so many of them that used to give him control. That used to allow him to write. To hold things. “Thank you,” he says, but it’s nothing more than a simple exhalation.

“You can rest if you want,” Ash puts Eiji’s hand in a small bin and puts his palm to Eiji’s brow.

It’s wet.

Eiji isn’t sure if it’s sweat, or if it’s blood, but it doesn’t matter. It’s Ash’s hand. It’s Ash’s comfort. His eyes close, and for a while, maybe he does rest.

When he opens them again, Ash has stripped down once more, and is now wearing another lab coat. His surgical mask is pulled down and Eiji can see the way his swallows, the way his lips rub against one another, the way his throat moves. There is a bowl set next to the table—large and metallic—and Eiji knows that now is the most important part of it all.

Now is the moment he’s lived for.

“I usually start with the eyes,” Ash says. “But since you’re awake, did you want to see me pull out your organs?”

Eiji nods weakly and smiles.

Ash smiles back. “I know you can’t see it,” he says. “But I’ve already opened your chest all the way down. I start here.” He stands and presses a finger just under Eiji’s throat. “And I cut down to your groin.” Ash moves and Eiji can feel Ash’s finger trace the skin all the way down. He wishes he could see. “I also already removed your ribs and intestines so I’m ready to start.”

Ash pulls up the mask, and reaches for a pair of tongs.

Eiji blinks. He’s so close, he’s so close to sleep, but he wants...he wants to be perfect. He wants to be everything for Ash. He forces his eyes open and watches.

Ash works close to his chest. It takes a moment, then another, but then Ash pulls up with something dark and huge clenched between the tongs. “Wow,” he says. “This is a lobe of your lung! It’s incredible to find one this clean, this perfectly functioning. I almost can’t believe…” he shakes his head and stops.

“What?” Eiji manages, forcing the sound from himself. Breathing hurts. It’s the only thing that he’s aware of. Drawing in breath feels wrong, feels dangerous.

“I guess I can’t believe they chose you. For disposal I mean.” Ash mentions. He is still holding the piece of lung over Eiji’s body, and Eiji watches as a large clump of viscera drops from it, back into his open chest.

Ash finally turns, placing it carefully in the bowl. “Usually we get smokers here,” he says. “Or mine workers. Most lungs I see are very very, black.”

“Was I…” Eiji swallows. “Good?”

Ash doesn’t hear him though, he shrugs the mask back on and dives back into Eiji’s body.

The smell of blood is everywhere, the light is so bright Eiji feels cold. He can’t do it. He can’t stay awake any longer.

He’s so cold.

“Eiji?”

Eiji blinks back up, and sees Ash holding something else.

“Kidney. Again...so beautiful…”

Eiji tries to smile, but can’t focus on it, all he can see is a dark mass of shape, all he can feel is nothing. He’s nothing. He tries to push out his awareness and remember what it was like when he walked, and he can’t remember anything.

But Ash is smiling at him.

Ash is looking at him as though Eiji is incredible.

And Eiji has never been incredible.

He’s always been nobody. Useless.

He swallows, then tries to push the words out one last time. “Was I perfect?”

He hears the plunk of meat hitting the bowl, and Ash comes back into vision. He nudges down the mask again, then presses wet fingers against Eiji’s brow. “You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”

Eiji smiles, and with a last exhale, his eyes fall closed.