Sunday, April 21, 2013
Sleepers by Matt Hegdahl
“It’s impossible,” I told him. I looked around at the wood paneling of the room, the random black lights hanging from the ceiling, and the litter box in the corner, full. “I didn’t sign up for this.”
Of course I didn’t sign up for this, I didn’t even want to come here, I didn’t have a choice though, they loaded me up as they did everyone else.
“It’s for the safety of society,” they told us with gun barrels pressed against our naked backs.
National security was at stake and we were to blame, or at least that’s how they saw it. According to the president we were a new form of sleeper cell, except some of us didn’t even know it. There were the ones that had been informed and given a chance to turn themselves in, but there were more like me.
I had no idea, honestly I didn’t know, I simply followed the protocols and proclamations that they issued. I followed the instructions that they left in my voicemail. The government official that called clearly said, “Go to the clinic on Evergreen Street, tell them your name and social security number, and they will take it from there.”
I had expected they would take some blood, but they did so much more than that. I’ve never been through so many tests in one clinical sitting. They swabbed my nasal passages until my eyes watered. My throat was rubbed raw from cotton and they used those skinny little popsicle sticks to scrape the inside of my cheeks. My colon was prodded and examined and then clipped. They thoroughly checked my prostate and even procured a semen sample. Hair clippings, nail clippings, and five vials of blood. The entire process took all day. Specialists were stationed all over the hospital and it was at least a 30 minute wait for each test.
I had expected to be informed of my test results, and I was, when they kicked in my door and drug me half naked out of my bedroom at gun point. I didn’t even have to ask when they loaded me on the bus. I was seated next to a woman who had most likely turned herself in.
I was among those they called the “sleepers” because we didn’t show any signs of sickness, physical or mental, but it was there, hidden deep inside us genetically, in our cellular structure. The sickness suppressed, waiting to come forward and strike without warning, in most cases people will live their whole lives with it and never have an outbreak, never show any symptoms or infect anyone else. It’s the small percentage of carriers, around three percent, that has society shaking in their boots. It’s because of this small percentage that I’m now in this room, dimly lit with ultra-violet lights and smelling of cat piss.
According to the specialists, the ammonia from felines and low levels of ultra-violet lights will suppress any possible outbreaks. So the first bit luxury I’m allowed when I get off the bus is this dank dark room. I know I’m a carrier, but I can’t believe they would label me as a member of a “sleeper cell.” It’s as though they think I was intending on being a biological weapon.
It’s the new form of suicide bomber, the extremists find a carrier, someone that doesn’t want to go to one of the camps, and they induce an outbreak and infect as many members as possible. These groups have found the best way to wage biological warfare, they don’t need labs, or special tools, all they need is one carrier. After every member of the group is infected they simply spend the day wandering around a city, maybe urinate in public, or cough in a department store. This is my life as a biological weapon. They keep me on reserve, until the time is right.
Matt Hegdahl lives in the second coldest city in the United States. He has more degrees than a unicycle has wheels, and, like a unicycle in a motocross race, they are completely useless. He lives with his wife and two puppets.
Copyright Matt Hegdahl
Artwork Leonora Carrington