HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for The Green Issue – sadly, too many to fit inside the magazine! So we offered some writers and artists who’d sent in work the chance to be published here on the website. Keep an eye on our social media for more great work like this, in the run-up to the release of The Green Issue…
Adam Zak Hawley
‘These Lives We Sell…’
‘…are cheaper than you’d expect,’ he chuckled, slamming his hand against a cold sarcophagus as if it were a used car. Upon entering the room, I saw a rusted plaque that read: COLD STORAGE. The kind you would find at the base of a tomb or on the dying red-coloured bricks of an old important building. It pinned into the perfect plastic of the white walls, the old and new clashing sharply. His index raised and pointed my way, choked by an excess of seven rings.
‘First time buyer?’ he queried.
I shrugged, which he seemed to equate to mean yes.
‘The first time you enter a body, there will be discomfort. Usually it’s just the mind adjusting itself to its new organs and whatnot – a few neural tremors. Nothing major, I assure you.’
From the frozen chamber peered a face, covered by a small oval of glass struck with thick veins of ice. It was the only window into the hulking cold rolled steel chamber that encased the body and looked more like a nuclear warhead than a life preservation unit.
‘So, the bodies, are they dead or are they just sleeping?’ I asked.
‘After we draw the person from the host body what remains is simply an organic vessel. They are hibernating in a sense. That’s how I like to put it–’
His smile dipped briefly, a sloppy sleaze dropping from beneath what was otherwise a meticulously built façade of business rigour and charm. He adjusted it efficiently, creasing it into something more delicate. A smile that rested on his face, careful and poignantly painted like a china doll’s, which made him seem as threatening as an elderly dealer of antiques. The cold metal that encircled his fingers whispered enticement, coaxing me towards his light.
‘–no different to how a hedgehog does,’ he added. He frowned slightly before reinvigorating to his animated tone: ‘Would you like to see our discounted stock?’
‘What’s the discounted stock?’ I replied.
‘The bodies that will soon go out of date.’
Like they’re a piece of fruit, produce in a supermarket.
‘Obviously, if we keep them more than a month, they’re presumed dead and reintegration is harder.’ He cleared his throat gutturally. ‘The bodies don’t tend to fare too well for more than a month in cryostasis either.’
We began down the hall. We had to have been underground, as the only thing I could hear was the heavy hum of the LEDs above me. Something wafted from the icy chambers, a pharmaceutical smell, probably from all the ethyl alcohol gel dispensers that guarded the metal tombs. The wafting medicinal taste of the artificial air was arid and harsh, as if paracetamol had been crushed directly into my mouth. The chambers lined each wall, watching us motionlessly, the dull frozen eyes glaring at us like weathered gargoyles. Pinned onto each chamber was a singular sheet of paper, topped with the lettering: Life Sheet.
Why harvest organs when you can harvest lives?
The sheet had small black lettering pressed onto it. It looked to be from a typewriter. There were a few paragraphs of writing, un-descriptive and canonical in their purpose of recounting an existence. The name of the person was emboldened at the top of the sheet. It reminded me of when I adopted my golden retriever – a thought that soon crumbled as my surroundings set back in. The salesman gave a light throat clear, as if this was something I should be rushing.
Each ‘Life Sheet’ had a photograph clipped to it, containing a photo of the person encased in the chamber it was attached to. The photo’s felt artificial, the people inside them hidden behind marketable smiles. Some were even surrounded by family, grinning and assumingly unaware of their loved one’s whereabouts. It was surreal, a closeted representation of a life. Like those ancient bugs that have been found, trapped in amber for millions of years, destined to be glared at and studied by a species unknown in their time. Or the ashen remains of the victims of Pompeii, engulfed by a pyroclastic flow, unaware in their own knowledge that they ever perished.
He stopped and placed his brass covered hand to his mouth, turning to face me. His acute smile ripened, widening into a long overdue sales grin as the glittery green potential he saw before him became clear. ‘Which one will it be then?’
Adam is currently a student at the University of Brighton, writing for both the degree course and in his spare time. He likes to experiment when focusing on coursework, exploring different genres. In his own time, Adam writes Science Fiction, Fantasy and Thriller based texts, usually threaded with a theme of tragedy.