I blinked crustily . . . Squinted blankly into fluorescent lighting . . . Lifted my head bewildered . . . Peered around . . . Where the hell was I? A better question, who the hell was I? "Where" dawned. A hospital room. Christ, that wasn't good. I lifted my head higher. Whoa! A sickening delay in vision adjustment spoke of recent sedation. A pleasant looking nurse fighting a pear-shaped future turned. "There you are!" A professional smile dripping reassurance crossed her face. "I'll let the doctor know you're awake." I stared at the door she exited, then dropped my head back in exhaustion. Hmmm. What's the last thing you remember? . . . nothing. Okay, first thing? Hmmm. Grandpa teaching me to ride a bike. Bam! The "who" came to me. My name is George. I'm a programmer for a banking corporation. Hmmm . . . Still no clue why I'm here. Bad news whatever! Multiple IVs. Oxygen. Feeding tubes. Equipment and monitors stacked up like a damn television studio. Beeping. Hissing. Harsh antiseptic smells. Numerous hoses attached to my lower abdomen moving stuff that didn't look nice. Christ, it was real bad! Think! I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. An accident? Think! Yes! My Harley. Beautiful day! Yes! Blue-haired old bitch in a Continental. Yes! Looking right at me through oversized sunglasses, she'd gunned it. Missed her but went down sliding on my gloves. Holy shit, right under a van! "Oh stop! Please stop, you're dragging me! Jesus fucking Christ, stop!" The sound of crunching as I folded up under the minivan. The panicked 16-year-old girl at the wheel trying desperately to flee the scene! More memories. Months in the hospital. A friend crying at my bedside.
"If she'd only stopped, they wouldn't have taken your legs!" "Oh! No! Shit, they took my legs! Hell they took'em clear to my navel!" Learning to walk on my hands. Use a wheelchair. A colostomy bag! Years of the embarrassment and . . . Years? Yes, years! I have an adapted apartment. I ride the wheelchair bus to work. The wreck, the hospital, and the rehab, all years ago! So what the hell was I doing here now? Another wreck? Surely not. Think! What's the last thing you remember? Hmmm. Superman? No, Reeve, Christopher Reeve. He shook my hand and said good luck. No it wasn't Reeve, it was Jefferson. They named the program after Reeve. But Jefferson. The football star. Three super bowl rings and twisted vertebrae later, he was the new champion of spinal chord injury research. He'd picked up where Reeve left off. A famous, too-good-looking-to-be-true quarterback, laid low in his prime. In a wheelchair testifying before congress. Making the rounds for the research dollars with his arms and legs lying useless and a breathing tube in his throat. He had walked up and shook my hand and said . . .
Memory hit me like a basketball in the face. Stunned, reeling, I shook with fear and hope. I was breathing rapidly. Panic only held back by meds. Not dreaming. No! I remembered! The program! I was the first candidate. They were sure it could be done. I waited almost two years. The call coming after I'd stopped expecting it. I had twenty minutes to give my answer but had yelled "Hell, fucking yes" into the phone.
The donor was on a Lear. An ambulance would pick me up in twenty minutes. The team was scrubbing. History was about to be made!
Slowly I raised my head and looked down at the end of the bed. The sheet was raised to a small two-pointed tent. I had feet! Feet and legs traveling down to them! I tried to move my arms, but they were tied. "Jesus Christ, it was done! Oh, shit, let it take. Let it take! Let me be whole again!"
It's been three months, and feeling is returning to . . . No . . . feeling is coming to my legs. I've never felt with these legs before. They aren't even the right color. The skin's too light, and my new grown pubes are blond. I'm of Greek descent, dark skinned and dark haired. The differences would go away, though. Slowly the cocktail of genetically engineered medications I was receiving would make the whole works mine.
No rejection that way. No dangerous anti-rejection drugs the rest of my life. In a year or so the hair would match my hair, the skin my skin, etc. They would be my legs. Their length wouldn't change, though. I'd be an inch and a half taller. Not a bad bonus for being the first full pelvis-down transplant.
President Shwartzenegger signed the Reeve-Jefferson Act into law in 2010. This bill threw the door wide open for federally funded research using fetal clone tissue. The soup they pumped into my veins every day was a concoction boiled down from a bunch of fist-sized carbon copies of myself.
It was called Clone-Regenerative Therapy or CRT. At first I was intimidated by the numerous duplicates of my pre-birth past, but it didn't last. They were meat and nothing else. Like a bunch of Cornish hens lined up in the freezer section. No consciousness. No mind. Nothing but useful material for the purpose of regenerative medicine. Unquote! "My" useful material. My stem cells. Mine unless they developed far enough to become viable outside of a womb. Then, they were U.S. citizens but not until. That part of the Bill sure played hell with the Pro-Life's collective digestion.
The real break came in 2012. They discovered a genetic transport method that forced your own DNA into foreign cells. Twelve years later there's hardly a person on the planet missing a limb or even a finger. Like flight in the early part of the last century, once they figured it out, the advancements were rapid. Jefferson himself ran the torch up the steps in the 2020 Olympics. By that time the world had seen over 1,400,000 successful limb and spinal chord attachments due to CRT.
I represented the "cutting edge" of this medical challenge, to quote the chuckling head surgeon. "The first mid-body attachment. The most aggressive test of the CRT procedures to date," he'd evangelized to his team first and then me as an after thought. "Not just limbs but body cavity, spine, organs and all!" He stated the obvious for his own sense of posterity. Getting the rhythm right for his Nobel Prize speech, no doubt.
It boiled down to the fact that I would get half of somebody out there. I'd known this for two years. Some other poor slob however, had been walking around not realizing he was a big part of this groundbreaking event. The half CNN wouldn't ask how it felt to be whole again.
Gloria, my gorgeous redheaded nurse, leaned over me and adjusted my pillows. She let her hair spill across my face with the expertise of a stripper. Your classic porno nurse right out of central casting, she even wore my favorite perfume, though her boyfriend didn't care for it. Her left breast was in nuzzling range, but I played the good boy for now. I wasn't healed enough to do anything about it anyway. I intend to, though, as soon as I physically can. Except for my celebrity status as the latest, greatest Frankenstein Monster, I'm nothing special. I want to capitalize on the situation before she gets around to finding out I'm just another boring computer geek. I saw her in x-ray one day and decided I couldn't live without her. They transferred her because I got upset and threatened to call a news conference. They needed me kept secret a while longer.
Medical centers these days are made or broken on the success or failure of groundbreaking strides forward. They tend to wait till they know the outcome before shouting about anything. When I'm ready, they'll wheel me down to the front lawn, and I'll stand and walk into a media frenzy that'd make a school of sharks proud. That'll be the first the public will know because of the security risk. There's a group of misfits out there who're set on delivering the world from embryonic and fetal tissue medicine. The Reeve-Jefferson act had barely passed through Congress. Gallup had shown a 60 percent disapproval rating among Americans. Now, however, there wasn't a person around who didn't know someone who'd been "Steined."
Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and a dozen other neurological diseases were as gone as polio. The age of the electric wheelchair was passed. Gallup currently showed a 93 percent approval. We'll never go back, but that makes the dwindling group of malcontents even more dangerous. A radical fringe group of this radical fringe group has gone the extra yard and sawed off a hand of each member in a moronically overzealous protest they call SANE, "Sensible Americans Negating Evil." "Stumpers," the media calls them. They are not above killing doctors or recipients involved in CRT cases.
I can feel my cock now, though I've yet to have my first woody. I can't believe how empowering it is to have a penis again. My libido had sunk so far I'd forgotten I was a sexual being. The surgeon asked that first morning if I wanted to see my new legs. Hell yes, I'd cried! But instead of greedily peering down at my new wheels, I'd frozen with a quick intake of breath. A cock! I'd emotionally forgotten that it went along with everything else from the navel down. I had a cock! Holy Mary, Mother of God, I could fuck again some day! No fifteen-year-old virgin going out with his first "easy" girl had ever been so intently psyched about his prospects. Part of me is incredulously annoyed by this, but it's being smothered in sexual anticipation. I'm anxiously awaiting the day I'll look down and see Gloria blowing me. We joke about it openly. Hell, everyone on my private staff jokes about it. I hope to God it isn't some rah-rah, positive-thinking therapy stunt. I want to look down onto the top of her head while that feeling . . . that feeling like . . .
My personal trainer, Steven, has me walking. Actually honest-to-God walking! All right, shuffling with help, but it's a start. It's been hell. Lots of pain and crying but I'm doing it. I don't know how I'll repay the kind of dedication he's given to this. He's cried as much as I have. I'll be able to stand up and take a step or two and shake hands with Jefferson when he comes by next month. He's jogging in events as he crosses the country promoting the new Superman movie he'll be starring in.
The lucky bastard was picked to promote Merck's new experimental CRT age-reduction-therapy. He looks good. Twenty-five years old at the most. When the movie hits in a year, they'll release the first trial therapy programs to those who can afford it. If I make enough off the docudrama rights to my story, I'm going for it myself. I'd rather be broke and permanently thirty than rich and old.
God, it feels good to stand and piss into a urinal. It feels great to sit on a toilet. It feels good to swing my legs over the edge of the bed and shove off even at a staggering gate. Life is good, but I desperately need Gloria to take me to that next level. I want to cum! I'm tremendously pumped for it. I think Gloria could get me over this hump I can't seem to get over with my hand. I think I might drown her in the process. I intend to try!
She's in a terrible quandary, though. We've been teasing about the blowjob so long she feels impelled to go ahead now that I'm closer to being capable of fulfilling my part. Problem is, she's since got herself engaged. I'd forgotten how complicated and frustrating the mating game was. Handsome guys call it a rewarding challenge. I always called it hell on earth.
Had a bit of a scare today when an explosion rocked the building. Security caught it on tape. Some "stumper" trying to get a bomb out of his trunk got his hook caught up in something. Dumb bastard dropped the bomb and blew himself to smithereens. It totaled a few cars and put a few other occupants of the garage into ER but otherwise did little damage. In a reaction to the comic spin the media put on the event the "stumpers'" own Grand-What's-it cut his remaining hand off live on CNN. He " . . . wanted everybody to see how crazy CRT was." While the jerk was on his knees hunched over his newest spurting stump, the reporter asked how he would earn a living now. The grunting fool claimed he was confident the Lord would provide. More likely it would be Medicare. I hear they're going to make a reality show out of that kind of kind of extremist protest. What next?
Finally got my blowjob! I think! It was after I took my nightly sleep aid but before I was totally unconscious. I lifted my head in astonishment to the indescribable feeling of fellatio. In the darkness I could see Gloria's red hair bob up and down on me, and I groaned happily. The meds make sure you don't move around in the night so my reaching for her was a helpless fumbling. She paused and squeezed my hand reassuringly.
I fell asleep about a second after I had my first orgasm in seven years. It was magical. The next day she acted coy and congratulated me on my first wet dream. She thought it was "so sweet that she was in it." Of course, I reassured myself, she couldn't do it during the day, someone might pop in. Or more likely, I might not be able to get off, and then I'd get depressed, so it made sense she would come back later when I was out, but not too far gone . . . . Check out the plumbing on the sly . . . Still, I wasn't sure.
When it happened again two days later, her reaction was the same. But I grinningly presented her with a long red hair removed from my nether regions. She laughed and claimed to have lost it while scrubbing me down. This was maddening. I begged her to put a chair across the door and do me right there in the sunshine. She smiled mischievously. I whipped the sheet back exposing my boner. She reached out and took it in a firm, appreciative grip. "I'm dying here," I stated desperately. "Do it! Do it again! Now!" She hesitated, looked from the chair to the door considering, then shook her head. "We'd get caught," she stated flatly, the sparkle leaving her eyes. She pulled the cover over me and left. I was angry now, and I didn't get over it. Part of me felt stupid for acting like a spoiled kid, but another part was bursting to get out of this hospital and live, and I couldn't stomach the holdup.
That night I palmed my meds and lay back waiting. My cock rose with anticipation. Twenty minutes later Gloria slipped into the dark room. She moved to the bed and pulled the sheet away. There was a second of hesitation; then, her hands were on me, and she pressed my fully erect manliness against her face very lovingly. I was touched by her tenderness but lay still, intent on playing dead until the business was well underway.
Even knowing it was coming didn't prepare me for the feeling. I groaned with a desperate pleasure at her first dive. Forgetting to wait, I reached down and put my hand on her head. The red wig came away, and Steven looked up at me with the same horror I was looking down at him.
"You! You bastard," I screamed hoarsely and pulled the sheet up over myself. He slipped to the floor and began crying. I leaned over the bed with the intention of swinging on him but couldn't get close enough. I sat there with my fist doubled up breathing like a bull. "I'll kill you for this, you son-of-a-bitch! I'll kill you!" He slumped even more and was crying now with the pain I'd only seen around deathbeds. It was enough to hold me in place, frozen like a statue of an enraged brute. His pain was strange enough that I didn't hit the nurse-call button either. This man had given his all to see me walk again, and I owed him a lot. A lot, but not that much. I was paralyzed with emotional conflict. "What the fuck do you think you're doing," I demanded. The depth of his anguish was astounding. It didn't make sense. He should be begging for mercy or offering to pay me not to turn him in or something, but he just cried. "Why," I demanded again. He reached a hand toward me tentatively, and I withdrew causing him to slump down farther and cry harder. "All this time! All this time you've been helping me, touching me, masssaging my legs . . . "They were mine before they were yours," he cried plaintively. This didn't make sense, and I couldn't get anything else out of him but deeper sobs. I'd seen this before. I'd have to wait for him to cry it out to get any answers. Five minutes later, his sobs were quiet and shallow, and I couldn't wait any longer. "Are you falling for me, or do you blow all your patients," I asked acidly. He looked up to me from the floor with red, swollen eyes.
"Don't flatter yourself," he said just as acidly.
"Did it ever occur to you that to gain a set of legs someone else had to lose them?
"Well, yes, but I tried not to think about it. What's that got to do with you?"
"What's that got to do with me? I was married to him, that's what! He was my lover! My soul mate! The only man I will ever love, and some frigging asshole blew him away, for his wallet. For 38 bucks!" He hung his head and cried again.
I had been given the choice of knowing or not about the donor of my new lower half and had opted for not. It could cause psychological problems they told me. I never thought about those problems being someone else's.
"I would've killed myself when he died, but they told me a part of him could live. I signed the papers, and when I found out where you were, I fixed it so I would be here to help. I wanted to be with him, any part of him."
He went on to tell me how easy it had been. He was already a physical therapy nurse. A few references lying about his background with "attachments therapy" A few bribes. A few private meetings with an administrator who was still in the closet, and boom, he was here, my therapist. His lover's name had been Andy. A hell of a nice guy. Marathon runner, gourmet chef, etc. After he shut up, I told him to get out.
After a bit I raised the sheet and looked down at my cock. It had had a lot of sex in its thirty years but never with a woman. It didn't seem like my cock any more but Andy's. A loaner and the wrong style to boot. No returns either. Christ! I had never given it a thought. I'm not a homophobe. I supported their right to marry, etc. "Just as long as they don't hit on me, ha ha ha!" I'd found that old saw held truth the hard way. No matter what you think, your subconscious has a mind of its own and may hold widely differing views than you. Years ago, back in college, a friend hit on me one evening after we'd been drinking and our team had won. I'd thought we were doing the male bonding thing, and he'd thought it a different kind of male bonding entirely. When I realized what was up, I'd shoved him away harshly and balled up my fists.
Seeing the tears in his eyes and realizing in a flash how easy it had been for both of us to be mistaken, I'd grabbed him in a rough hug. "I love you man, but not that way!" After a tentative sob he'd given me a crushing bear hug back. Grinning through red faces and tears, we took turns punching each other in the shoulder and saying how much it didn't affect our friendship. But it had. I've been on both sides of the fence in similar experiences with women. One wants to be friends, the other lovers. The friendship thing never works out. So we'd simply and easily seen less and less of each other. Graduation had been the last time we'd ever spoken.
Therefore, to me, the conscious me, it didn't matter that the donor was gay. My sub-conscious was having problems, though. It kept throwing up unwanted thoughts. It separated me into halves. Not "I" anymore but "me and Andy." Me and Andy need to take a piss. Andy sure likes you handling his cock like that! Me and Andy need to take a dump. Don't dally back there while your wiping or ol' Andy'll think you've got the hots for him!
We were as separate now as our previous ways of life. A real Frankenstein monster! Doomed to failure not out of a rejection of parts but out of classic human xenophobia. I was disgusted with myself. I wanted to reach down deep inside and slap the shit out of my own ignorant, homophobic inner self. There was a troglodyte inside of me, and I hated him. "Now there's three of us," he remarked acidly back to me.
Steven called in sick the next few days, and I began to worry. The guy had lost a lot. He'd also given a lot. I would not be walking now without his dedication, so I called him. We weren't on a videophone, but I could tell he was a wreck. He admitted to having held off grieving over Andy's death. Part of Andy still being alive had given him something to cling to. Now it was really over, and he was burning alive with the pain. I demanded he come in that evening, and he reluctantly agreed.
"You will resign effective immediately," I said once he stood at the bedside. "You will go and get some grief counseling! You will forget that a part of Andy is attached to me and get on with your life because that is what he would've wanted, I'm sure!" He stood with his head down and turned away slightly. He nodded through all this till the last where he began to cry quietly. He turned to go.
"Steven!" He stopped. I handed him an envelope. "Have a ceremony! Burn this! Let him pass!" Numbly he looked in at the toe nail clippings and curly blond hairs, then closed his eyes. "Thanks for helping me walk again. I couldn't have done it without your dedication." He nodded looking down, then turned and escaped from the room.
I was in the hospital another six months. Changes happened rapidly during that stage. The hair I had given Steven had been fine and only hinted at darkening. Three years later now I'm sporting the dense, course blue-black bushiness of my Greek heritage. I've had four serious girlfriends since my post-release pussy binge. I have confidence I didn't have before. Or maybe just a subconscious drive fueled by the fear that it could happen again. I went through several transitions after my release. At first I fucked because I could. And, of course, there were plenty who wanted to say they did it with that half-and-half guy from the cover of Time. For a while I was a lean, mean, screwing machine! I was invited to the best of the best swinger parties for months. I screwed models and actresses like I was a rock star until the second half-and-half made the news and my fifteen minutes of fame clocked out.
Then, for one morbid and regrettable month it was for no other reason than to satisfy my troglodyte's secret homophobic desire to be cleansed of the queer. All I could think of was that my penis still had spent more time in men than in women. I was out on the prowl for as many as three different women every evening. It wasn't fun or romantic. It wasn't even plain old fucking; it was rutting. Furious and animal like. Pounding the bottom out. But it worked. I lost the moral battle with the caveman inside me, but I got him off my back. I make love to women now for the good old-fashioned enjoyment of it. There are other changes from my lethargic pre-accident life. I run regularly. I even ran in the Boston Marathon with Jefferson and a slew of other former gimps. We didn't do well, any of us, but we didn't do badly either. Jefferson was polite enough not to run off and leave us, though I'm sure he could've. He's had a few problems with the age reduction stuff, but it looks like they've got it tuned up pretty well now. I can hardly wait!
An hour after the finish we were back on our feet talking. Jefferson told us he intended to actually try and win in a few years. It would coincide with the first public availability of the CRT age reduction therapy he was on. After congratulating some of my friends, I turned to head home. There, standing behind me, was Steven. We stared at each other a second, then both grinned in embarrassment. "I've been watching the race for fifteen years," he said, explaining his presence. I nodded amiably, letting him know I didn't think he was stalking me. "How're the legs holding up," he asked. "Great," I said. "Took me all the way!" He looked down at them wistfully.
"They always were good legs! Listen . . . I've wanted . . . for a long time . . . to . . . to thank you for not turning me in. It would've ruined my career. They took me back at my old job, and I probably wouldn't have survived without my work . . . " I nodded and he went on. "Anyway, thanks for understanding. It was big of you! I'm glad. Really glad to know part of him is still alive and still running. He would've liked that!"
"They're my legs now," I stated, immediately regretting the territorial gruffness.
"Of course they are! Yes! I didn't mean anything . . . I was . . . sick. Very sick at the time. I'm better now! Much better!" We both paused to regroup.
"Find someone else?" I asked earnestly. He looked at the sky and sighed.
"There will never be another Andy . . . but there is a certain Robert that . . . who's turning out to be special. He lost someone, too. Lost him to AIDS."
"AIDS! I thought they had that cured!" "He's been alone for a long, long time." "Oh. I'm sorry for him. Well, not anymore. Not if he's got you!" Steven blushed as he smiled. This was better, but we were running out of conversation.
"Um, how'd it work out with that redheaded nurse, " he asked, trying to fill the void.
"You never . . . "
"Oh yes, we most certainly did! One night during my last month at the center she and her fiancé got drunk, argued over the wedding arrangements, and then called it off. In a fit of anger she drove straight to the hospital. Like to scared me to death when I woke up and saw that red head going down on me.
"Oh . . . . you thought . . . He blushed and smiled again.
"Well, for an instant anyway," I said. Steven covered his grin with his hand. "Anyhow for the next week and a half she tried to make up for all the sex I'd missed over the previous seven years! It was awesome! She was quite . . . kinky!"
"What went wrong?"
"Her ex-fiancé showed up at her house one night, they got drunk, staggered down to a local church, woke up the minister, and eloped."
"Scout's honor!" He laughed, and I realized I'd never heard it before. "You are doing better," I said. "I'm glad! Andy would be glad as well, I'm sure."
"Yes, Andy would be glad for both of us. He was that kind of guy!" We stood there a second too long in the awkward silence.
"Well, I . . . " He rushed forward before I could finish and gave me a quick hug.
"Sorry," he said stepping back.
"Was that for me or for Andy," I asked easily, surprising even myself. The troglodyte was dead, and I was glad to know it.
"Both!" He smiled and relaxed, too. "I think I needed this," he said.
"Me, too!" I hugged him back hard for a long, long, silent minute. "That's from both of us!" I beamed a proud smile as I stepped back. He smiled and blinked away tears. Then, we both looked around at the milling crowd, the sky, and the ground.
Finally, we looked back at each other and shook hands. Not too long, but just a bit longer than normal. This was Andy's last-rites for both of us.
"So long," he said with a sad smile and turned and walked away. He grabbed the hand of an older man, and they disappeared into the crowd. I looked down at my legs. They were mine now. Not a little bit Andy's, or Steven's either for that matter, but mine. Mine, and dead tired. I'd just run a Marathon after all. I felt light as a feather, though. So many women and so much time, I kept thinking as I smiled through the rest of the day.
Brian Behr Valentine is currently working on a novel about the methamphetamine epidemic in rural America.