Chapter 1: Chosen
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.
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.
“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.
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 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.
Chapter 2: Black Ticket
It’s the year 2150 and Aslan Callenreese has been chosen. Chosen by society to fulfill his purpose
Goretober Day #10 & 11: Surgery and Amputation
-Prequel to Chapter 1-
“Happy birthday, Aslan!”
Ash barely glances at the group of girls lounging in the hall, just waves at them in passing and rolls his eyes at their giggles.
His thirteenth birthday just had to happen on a school day. Lucky him.
He enters his classroom and is quickly aware that everyone’s eyes are on him. He wonders why for only a second until he sees it.
The small ticket on top of his desk.
Face down. The color hidden.
Has he been chosen already?
It was only his first day as an adult. The first day of his name being in the Chosen pool.
Ash swallows, his lips dry and his heartbeat pattering hastily against his chest.
His backpack hangs from one shoulder, and his entire class is muttering around him, whispering between each other as Ash makes his way to his desk.
He flips the paper.
A black ticket. Not a red one.
Ash grabs it and leaves the classroom as the whispers behind him rise and rise.
He looks at the ticket in his hand again as he makes his way to the grey building at the back of the campus, a sliver of a smile forming on his lips when he knocks on the red door at the end of a long hall. He can’t quite believe this is happening. That this is real.
A small window opens and a man in white scrubs peeks his head out. “Do you have a ticket?”
Ash hands it over, noticing how the man’s eyes widen ever so slightly. There’s only a small pause, and then the door buzzes before swinging open.
“You may store your belongings in any of the lockers please,” the man points ahead.
Ash drops his backpack, and empties his pockets, quickly pushing everything into one of the small, metal compartments.
“Confirm your name please.”
He looks up to see the man studying him, mouth pressed into a firm line. Then he presents the screen on his holo-pad. “Please confirm your identity.”
Ash waits for the pad scan his fingerprint.
As soon as it lights up blue, the man pulls it back. “Follow me,” he says, turning and walking down the long, grey hallway. Ash follows, the ticket still clenched between his fingers.
They reach a door labeled A5, and the man pushes it open, stepping out of the way so that Ash can enter. “Your trainer will be here shortly,” he says, then the door swings closed leaving Ash alone.
A disposal room.
There are butterflies beating against his stomach as Ash steps further inside. The floors and walls are a solid white marble, framed by the sterile metal countertops and cupboards. As much as it is aesthetically pleasing, Ash knows it is also easier to clean, though that is not the assignment of a black ticket holder.
There’s a brightly lit surgical table set right in the middle. The countertops that line the walls are currently bare, but Ash imagines that hidden behind the cupboard doors are all the tools a disposal officer might need.
The inside door slides open, and Ash turns to see an older man stepping in.
“Aslan Callenreese,” the man says, his voice heavy and dry.
Ash stands at attention, the weight of the man’s stare leaden. He’s being judged. He’s being evaluated if he’s worthy of the position. “Sir.” Ash nods his head respectfully, but otherwise doesn’t move an inch.
“You’ve been selected to join the Disposal Team of Sector Nine. Congratulations.”
Ash keeps his smile hidden. Being chosen as a disposal officer is a huge honor. He will be providing a service to his country that very few can do, and it’s one of the highest possible positions available.
Ash tries to ignore the way his nerves are thrumming in anticipation.
His trainer looks at him in the eye. “You may call me Papa.”
Ash’s eyes widen. It hits him then, who his trainer is. Dino ‘Papa’ Golzine, he most famous disposal officer the city has ever seen. As a child, he’d heard stories of the man, about how lucky a red ticket holder was to be disposed of by Papa. About how he needed to be good to have that chance. If he was bad and didn’t listen, he wouldn't be chosen.
“Yes, Papa.” Ash just nods his head once. Then he lifts his eyes, glaring proudly into Golzine’s blue orbs.
Golzine smiles, placing a hand on Ash’s shoulder and pats it twice. “I can tell you will be a fine officer, young Aslan. Soon, you will know this room like you know your own home. We are the last face our Chosen citizens see. We fulfill their purpose, give them joy, and deliver them to the next place.”
“We lose the joy of being Chosen in this, but our job is vital for our country to survive.” Golzine opens a drawer and pulls out a small apron, handing it over. “Now. Let’s begin. You have a long road ahead, before you become a proper officer.”
Ash is unable to hide his smile this time. “Yes, sir.”
Dino allows Ash to dispose of his first chosen three months after his training begins. The chosen is a fourteen year old girl, and her soft cries echo as she enters the room. They don’t stop, even after Ash administers the anesthetic.
Disgraceful, disgraceful! Ash thinks as the girl’s tears roll down her cheeks.
He does his best to ignore her though and flicks on the bone saw, smiling as the vibrations run up his arms and the anticipation pools on his belly.
Dino stands in the background, arms crossed, watching him the entire time, and Ash is going to make him proud.
The girl’s body stiffens and a loud sob escapes her lips as Ash starts his work. The saw quickly slices into muscle and skin. Her femur barely gives any resistance and Ash moves with the blade, not forcing anything, so the blood splatter is almost nonexistent.
Ash’s mask presses into his cheeks as he grins when the leg is completely separated. He turns off the saw and loosens the straps over the girl’s body, picking up the leg and carrying it over to the bin on the counter.
There’s a sniffling sound, and Ash glances back to see her wide eyes staring at him. It’s irritating really. She’s been chosen for disposal. She’s going to the next place. Why is she sobbing?
“You’re not supposed to cry.”
Ash realizes he’s spoken out loud as Dino’s arms drop against his sides.
Speaking with the Chosen isn’t forbidden, but it’s not exactly an accepted practice. Disposal officers are renowned for their silence, their grace. They are there to help the Chosen complete their destiny with peace.
“Aslan,” Dino warns.
“I’m sorry, sir.” These words come easy to him, pop free without any thought whatsoever.
“Just finish,” Dino orders.
Ash turns his attention back to the girl on the table.
The leg he’s just removed isn’t bleeding anymore—it has already clotted perfectly, pulling skin together tight and turning a dark, rough brown.
It’s beautiful, but Ash doesn’t say a word. He just moves to the other side and turns the saw on again, watching it cut down into the skin, watching the paleness of flesh give way to deep muscle and white bone.
The girl stops crying when he starts on her arms. She’s still gulping in air, still letting free tiny whines of distress, but her face stares blankly up at the lights.
Dino has told him over and over again that the way to rise to greatness is to be efficient, and the way to be efficient is to cut clean, and quick. To push straight down but not faster than the bone is willing to give. To hold the saw as steady as possible and make sure his entire body is in line with it and doesn’t hesitate.
If he does a good job, the blood will squirt, not spray. It will lead along the table and drip into a long line on the floor leading to the drain, like it’s supposed to.
Ash smiles as he finishes with the girl’s last arm. Certain his work will please Papa.
His white coat is always bloody by the end of the major limbs, and Ash removes it to grab a clean one. Every disposal officer has their habits and Ash likes to keep clean. He likes to have a white coat or apron. Likes to see the brightness of blood paint the fabric as he does his job. He tends to change at least four times throughout the process. Dino chides him about this, lectures him on his wastefulness and how the clock is running, how he’ll never be the greatest if he can’t be quick.
On this Ash disagrees with his trainer.
Hurrying through the process feels wrong. This is the Chosen’s moment of joy, they should savor it. Experience every second of it. See their blood dripping off their disposal officer’s clothes.
The Chosen are beautiful as they transition from whole body to limbs sheared off. As their bodies open, torso and bellies relieved of organs.
Ash is the last person they see before they go to the next place and he wants them to feel as special as they are.
The girl gasps when Ash starts to cut open her chest, tears renewing in her eyes as she tries to look down her own body. She squirms. Messes with his precision. He should have had a perfect view of her left lung after opening up her torso, he should have been able to pull the organ completely free after breaking her ribcage.
And instead, he nicks the corner of her liver the moment his blade enters her chest cavity.
Blood gushes more than it’s supposed to, and Ash grits his teeth at the mess, but at least the girl finally falls silent. He’s able to concentrate again, pull the remaining organs out in perfect condition then finish by cutting off her head.
The nicked liver is in a separate bin. Useless now.
It’s a small mistake, but Ash is irritated that it happened at all. If the girl had just stayed still like she was supposed to, he would have been perfect.
“I need more straps next time.” Ash says as he makes sure all the pieces of the girl are in their proper bin.
Dino stands next to Ash, presses a meaty hand against his shoulder and smiles. “You are ready.”
“Happy birthday, Aslan!”
Ash forces a smile to his lips and grits his teeth as he closes the classroom door behind him.
The three girls in front of him are older than him — probably in level 10, two years ahead — and the tallest one pushes a small cupcake with the numbers 1 and 5 right in his face, but he keeps the smile on and bears it.
“Is it true you get your own disposal room now?” One of the girls asks, twirling her curls with her finger.
Ash takes the offered cupcake. “Yes,” he answers plainly. “Excuse me, please,” he says as he passes the group and starts down the hall.
He can hear them behind him, still talking.
“I hope someday I get a red ticket.”
“I want Ash to be my disposal officer!”
Ash tries to block out the squeals behind him, tossing the cupcake on the next trash bin he sees. He hopes none of those girls ever get chosen. They don't deserve it.
A prodigy, a prodigy . It’s all he hears lately, along with whispers as he walks past or the more brazen crowd that try to catch his attention by begging him to choose them as though he has such power.
It gets tiring.
Ash is just doing the job he was chosen to do.
He isn't special.
He just wants to finish school. Finish his training. And dedicate his life to the task he was assigned to do.
There is so much he loves. Like the perfect way that an eyeball sucks against the curve of his blade before finally popping free. The way that bone marrow has a certain smell to it if you slice the leg in just the right place. The way that the anticoagulant drugs makes blood run so thick that it almost stays in body.
And there is so much left to learn.
He’s been chosen, he’s serving his purpose, and there’s no greater happiness.
Ash turns the corner and something smacks into him. It takes him a second to take pull his back backpack on his shoulder before he turns to see wide brown eyes blinking up at him.
“I’m so, so sorry.”
The boy raises a blue notebook to his lips, eyes darting from Ash, to the hallway, and back again, clearly shaken.
Ash relaxes immediately, the annoyance instantly lifting. A part of his brain recognizes the boy that bumps into him, but in his rush, he can’t quite pin it down.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Ash mumbles
But even as the boy brushes past, and hurries down the hallway, Ash can’t stop staring. He keeps watching the dark haired boy running down the hall until his alarm goes off reminding him that he can’t be late and he’s forced to turn in the opposite direction.
He comes home that evening with blood staining his wrists, his mother takes his hands and scrubs them clean, smiling so bright that there are stars in her eyes.
She’s so proud of him.
His father too.
This makes Ash happy.
That night, all three turn on the television and watch the required reports. Then, on the local piece, a track and field meet is being featured, and a boy from Ash’s school jumps higher than all the other boys, black hair whispering in the wind, and bright brown eyes that flicker in the stadium lights.
Ash recognizes him.
Trembling lips hidden behind a notebook.
He looks so different now. Confident.
He can fly.
The simple happiness flutters for just a moment in his chest and he finds something else pooling there. Something different.
And for the first time in his life...
“Happy birthday, Aslan!”
Ash blinks and keeps his lips in a tight line as Papa puts a cake on his desk. It takes all of Ash’s strength not to laugh.
“You have an interview today correct?”
Ash swallows the impulse giggle down. “Yes, sir.”
“I’m truly proud of you, Ash. You really are worthy of inheriting my place here.”
Ash purses his lips. “Is it true you are retiring, sir?”
Dino nods. “It’s my time to join the council as an elder. Guide our wonderful country to new heights.”
“I’m sure you will excel, sir.” Ash opens a drawer and starts taking out the tools for the day. He got a last minute assignment this morning, even though it was his birthday. Though really Ash preferred it that way. No other place he’d rather be than alone with the chosen, his white apron tied tightly around his waist, his gloved hands reaching for the scalpel.
“I look forward to seeing what you become in the future,” Dino says as Ash grabs one of the knives. “You will be amazing.” Dino says softly as he heads to the door. “Happy birthday, Aslan.”
Ash watches his master leave for the last time. Realizing that suddenly this was his office, not Dino’s. It was his legacy now that will happen within these walls and the disposal room connected to it.
His disposal room.
There’s a giddiness bursting within him that he can barely contain.
His holopad sits on it’s charging station, and he picks it up itching to start the day, waiting for the log-on screen to let him tap in his credentials and see the name of his chosen.
It flashes once.
Okumura Eiji. ID OT573E.