An elderly woman pays a lifelong penance for her parent's decision.
| “You have dementia, Ms. Garcia. Who do you think you are? Not that it matters, you won’t even remember who you are soon enough. Why do you think that you belong here?” The doctor exasperated, clearly annoyed at the waste of space in his office.
“Sir, I was born a few years before the Genetic Advancement Movement. And I do not have dementia, my father did. I take very good care of myself and I am perfectly healthy,” replied Mariposa Garcia. She was just as tired of being there as Doctor Renburg was annoyed at her presence. At eighty-two, she was rather young to be applying for a nursing home, but she knew that being born unmodified took away several quality years from her she’d have otherwise. Her younger brothers were both products of the GAM and had very active lifestyles with zero chance of dying before their hundredth birthday from natural causes.
“The very fact that dementia runs in your family means that you carry the genetics for it, unlike the vast majority of those born after 2085 when out became mandatory. We have cured cancer, diabetes, oh and dementia. But we can’t cure you when you get it. If you could prove that you won’t waste the tax payers’ money, unlike my time, then maybe I would consider overlooking your financial status. But until then, I recommend that you check out places more appropriate to your status. Don’t you want to die with people who won’t ostracize you for your advanced aging? It’ll be better that way. Now get out or I am calling security and you’ll be forced into a Home. I’m doing you a favor.”
With a sad sigh, Mariposa got up with creaking bones and stared at the doctor for a moment with sadness. In her youth, her rhythmic brown eyes had served her well with her pretty face. But she was only that, merely pretty. No one wanted to marry her, for fear she would taint any offspring that she might have with a modded person. The initial fixing of genetics cost several thousand dollars, but two fixed parents had little chance of producing an imperfect child. They could even choose what the child would look like to ensure the baby would fit their expectations. Fifty years ago, the government even payed her a hefty sum to be fixed, and promised her she could adopt for free, but agencies turned her away in fear of somehow ruining them. Before she was born, her heavily Catholic parents believed it to be a sin to mess with God and his creations. But when they were offered a few grand to ‘fix’ her younger twin brothers, of course they took it. The Garcia’s were living in poverty and it was cheaper in the long run to get them and other families like them off of government assistance. Who knows how much the country saved over the years by ridding the diseases that once ravaged the years past?
Mari often wondered if her mother and father would have made the choice they did if the future of their only daughter had been foreseeable. Instead of living a normal life, she constantly seething in jealous of what Eduardo and Diego were able to accomplish. Unlike her, the boys were successful and had spouses and beautiful children. Only Diego spoke to her though, but neither twin would let her interact much with their children because their spouses didn’t want the kids exposed to someone like her.
Back at her humble abode, she was greeted by her imperfect pair of cats, who she had saved from a shelter as tiny kittens. Cane was missing most of his tail and Abel was blind in one eye. She loved her boys because they were lost and unloved in this world until they found each other. She knew that it would be a long while before she had to sell her home and find herself a new place to live out her days, but she was happy knowing that her eighteen-year old nephew would look after her cats and home if she wasn’t allowed to take them with her. Doctor Renburg gave her a list of Homes for the Uncured to check out and wished her the best. In reality, she knew that she couldn’t be mad at him, for he was product of the machine that was built around her. Who could she blame but her parents for her present state? It’s not as if she didn’t apply to every college or job that she could. But the only job she was able to get was one in a warehouse, away from the eyes of the public.
Now her wasting body was bent over from years of abuse by heaving loads and stooping over machines. Despite robotics taking over the factory jobs that were once so common place in Old America, someone still had to keep an eye on them in the dank dilapidations that barely passed for buildings with the other hidden people. Maybe if she had been born five or ten years prior, then she could have been accepted by society and likely already be a few years dead. At least back then, being modified was seen as an oddity, not unlike her cursed existence. No sense in wishful thinking, she chided herself, after-all, I am still alive, and I don’t fancy being the opposite. Mari was not particularly religious, not like her parents whose faith never waned over the years. Both Mama and Papa died before they were even her age, so what had she to really complain about? At least she was able to benefit from the medical advances they were not alive to seek (not that they would have anyhow). Twice had Mariposa been cured of cancer, and once had a liver regrown. But now that she was old for someone unmodded, but her insurance refused to pay for anymore life-sustaining treatments since she already capped out at her lifetime premiums.
Reluctantly, the insurance agreed to pay for a Home if the State would pay for half. Since she qualified as a Genetic Minority, the total sums would split half the cost up to five years. After that she would be forced into State Care, which she wanted to avoid at all costs. Given the choice between being forced to sleep in a open area and subsisting on subpar foods, card games, and stale perfume, the option of taking her life was tempting. Once you went onto such a place, there was no coming out. The residents always passed away within a year or two under the guise of natural causes. Although Mari had no proof, she was almost certain the government was killing off the unwanted members who drained society financially and spiritually in order to prepare the way for a utopian society. The reason she strongly believed in this because it had happened to both her parents, Ricardo and Lucia. Ricardo was diagnosed with dementia in his seventies and died within six months of being taken to the Home. Lucia grew weak after her soul mate’s passing and left the world in an unceremoniously way of ‘dying in her sleep’ at sixty-eight.
She refused to allow that to happen to her as long as she fully possessed her mental faculties. Unlike her father, she tested negative for the genetic deficiencies that caused his dementia, but people still feared her that she could pass it along to them. What a silly notion; it's not like they were ever going to get severely ill or anything. Her mind was still there, but her body was slowly deteriorating with her rapidly advancing age. Most folks her from her generation were spry as if they were in their forties or fifties still and looked much better than she. Long ago Mariposa had to accept the fact that she was a modern leper and would not even be allowed in the fringes of society. She avoided people at all costs to still the awkward glances and hurried conversations of perfect people. One could just look at her and see how different she was. The very fact that she looked aged gave her away. No one wanted to be reminded of their impending morality, not when they had glamorous lives to live. Since she was part of the first generation of the GAM, no one really knew the consequences of the science. They only that they would ride the waves of enjoyment while they could, hurriedly fixing any small kink that came along with playing God.
That’s enough thinking for tonight, she thought as she reached to turn off her flickering lights. She just had a sense of foreboding if she could not find a Private Home, someone would place her where they felt she belonged instead. Not if she could help it.
Before the first light could sharpen the grass blades by evaporating the morning dew, there was a crisp sounding knock form someone who had done these a thousand times. “Ms. Garcia, shouted a hurried voice,” Wellness check. I need to make sure you are okay.”
Wellness check? She knew she was old, but she didn’t require a wellness check quite yet. Sure, her neighbors saw her outside everyday attending to her sad lifeless plants in a final throw to stave off the aging process. Well now I have to put on a bra. I’m sure the young man doesn’t want to see the sagging of my former glory, she thought. Her thick grey hairs were all over her face from a sweaty night of bad dreams and her body groaned with protest every move she made. She looked at herself in the mirror and suddenly thought she could see why they wanted to check on her. She certainly wasn’t the spring…turkey…or was it chicken? It didn’t matter. The young man was yelling in his raspy voice even louder that made you want to stick your head in a microwave to stop it. The screechy vowels were akin to an old-fashioned broken record from before even her parents’ time.
Mariposa wrenched open the door with obvious annoyance and snapped at the youth in the suit too big for his awkward lankiness, “What can I do for you? Can you see that I am alive and kicking? Because if you don’t quit your gimpy yelping, that’s what I’m gonna do to you, kick you. Don’t you have any respect for someone at 8 am than to be screaming your lungs out boy?”
The man-boy let out a surprised moan that only served to make him more out of place. He looked as though he barely outgrew his diapers but somehow hit puberty at the same time. With a quick wipe to his sweaty brow, he said, “Ms. Garcia, I am only doing my job. The gracious Government cares about all its citizens and wants the very best for everyone, especially those like yourself. Those who can’t take care of them- “
“Can’t take care of who? Me? Firstly, boy, I possess the necessary functions to provide everything I need for myself and my two cats. I can walk, I run, and I can still function in other ways that you probably haven’t heard of yet. Who are you and what do you really want?”
“I am Frederick Marshall and I work for the Aging Helpless from the Department of Genetic Health. You have been flagged in the system for health risks due to your, um, advanced age. I, um, see that you can walk, but we are concerned for you and only want to help.”
“Help with what, exactly, Freddy?”
“To help you help yourself. We only want what’s best for you. One day you won’t be able to take care of yourself and we will help you with that. We will find you a comfortable Home to rest in peace for the rest of your natural life.”
“Who are we?” she asked suspiciously.
“We are the Department of Genetic Health for the Aging Helpless.”
“So, you keep insisting. I insist that the Home I choose to go die in is where I want to go. Not some run-down State Home that treats me like a child and tells me when I can eat or when I can breathe.”
“But these homes are state of the art. They are made for comfort for you and others like you. We make sure you are- “
“Dr. Renford provided me with a list of Homes to check out and be certain that they are to my liking. Go on now.”
Fredrick glanced around nervously and reached in his jacket and flipped off a microphone with a barely audible click. “Ms. Garcia, I recommend that you find a Home as soon as humanly possible. I could get in trouble for this and can’t tell you more. I am trying to help you. Good day ma’am.” He clicked it back on and left hurriedly with guilty confidence that wasn’t there before.
Mariposa was worn out from the brief runaround and went back inside with her heart sinking even deeper into her chest than ever before.
Shortly around noon, Mari called around to the some of the nicer Homes and got the same response she received from Dr. Rendford and many doctors before him. Each recommended the comfort of the State Homes that would provide her with all her needs to “rest in peace” for the rest of her natural life. Several hours later, she was exhausted and only had one more Home to call, the Eternal Gates at Parkway Plaza. After looking at their online brochure from the QR code on the list, she was a little perturbed, but it was worth a try. The words read: Coming to Eternal Gates at Parkway Plaza is a blessing. Dr. Peter Pearl and his professional team make sure you live the rest of your natural life in comfort. Each resident receives the best care and attention they deserve. We even work with lasped insurance policies and pre-GAM parents to help make your transition to Eternal Gates with Dr. Pearl a smoother ride to eternity.
After rereading the short informational blurb, a couple more times, she decided that she might as well give it a try. What more harm could be done by being to tell no one more time? She picked up her cell phone and dialed the number that was answered by an overtly perky young woman who was probably another bottle blonde with perfect breasts. The perfectly practiced voice breathed, “Thank you for calling Eternal Gates at Parkway Plaza. We are pleased for your consideration of our wonderful facility. If you would like to apply, please visit our website for more information. If you would like to- “
“My name is Mariposa Garcia and I would like to apply, but I am pre-Genetic Advancement Movement and my insurance is over-capped. I have called around to every facility in a several miles radius and I don’t feel like hearing the spiel of how you can’t help me.”
“Well hello Ms. Garcia. We have been expecting your call for some time now. Eternal Gates would love to help you. Your brother Diego Garcia has already agreed to pay for what the insurance and the Government won’t pay and has set up arrangements to help care for your cats and housing affairs. He gives his best wishes. When would you like to move in ma’am?”
“I don’t like how none of this was done without my consent. But I suppose a Private Home is better than a State Home. You are private, are you not?”
“Only the best for you Ms. Garcia.”
“I’m not ready to move in yet because I am still able to live on my own. I just needed to reserve a spot before I was forced to pick a substandard State Home.”
“Of course, Ms. Garcia. We will send the paperwork over and have everything arranged shortly. Enjoy the rest of your time today Mariposa.” The peppy voice on the other end ceased with a click.
Mari was grateful that she was able to secure a spot in a nice facility for her future and didn’t even stop to think about how everything seemed much to easy. At that point, she only cared to take a bath and go to bed with her boys. It had been a long day and her aged mind could only take so much. She acknowledged the fragile state she was being forced into, but that was life, especially for her. That night she slept a dreamless sleep that only age could provide.
At precisely five in the morning, a tall blonde male in his mid to late forties opened the door with a key. He held a syringe in his left hand with his other hand ready to pull of the inject. The man was followed by two well-dressed interns who hated to be awake this early. But to work under the prestige of such renown that was Dr. Pearl was not a chance they would pass up. So, they carefully followed his every cue and did as they were told. On the bed lay their target, perfectly beautiful in her careful slumber. Mariposa didn’t even realize that she was stabbed with the needle, as Dr. Pearl’s steady hand was worked with well-practiced precision. He didn’t want to be here anymore than his meager residents, but he was the best man for the job. Garcia was known for her questioning demeanor and needed to be relocated before she blabbed to her neighbors about another conspiracy.
After Fredrick had gone off mic for a few seconds, they knew he had finally cracked, it was just matter of time. The boy was simply not cut out for this work and was taken instead to a well-kept hospital for the Genetic Failures. His chemical lobotomy would shock his family into keeping quiet, for heaven forbid they would be known as that bloodline who would taint any of those with genetic perfection. No one cared much for the boy anyhow. He was as awkward as he was annoying, so all the better for society not be exposed to him. His wife and two-year old daughter would be watched closely for the remainder of their lives.
The van ride back to Eternal Gates was uneventful, and the cats would be okay since it had been arranged long ago for Marco Garcia to take custody of the house and all its effects. Peter Pearl would not allow animals, especially cats, to be harmed. Much like children, they were innocent and didn’t realize how horrible the world truly was, unlike Mari. His job was done for rest of the night, but not for his lowly intern that drew the short end of the stick. She had to be the one to tell Ms. Garcia she had a fall and was moved to the Home to better protect herself. Brandy Tillman was not looking forward to the lively patient and all of her questions. But she knew she was chosen because she was angelic and had a way with calming new residents. She should have been an actress instead, she thought.
The patient woke up in the middle of the afternoon, wondering where she was of course. At first, she let out a surprise scream, but calmed down at the threat of new drugs that was under the guise of a caring offer. Brandy felt sorry for her at first, but quickly got over that. She now understood why society would be better off without a woman like her running around chattering to everyone about how miserable her life was. If only her parents had chosen to make her better by fixing her genetics, then she wouldn’t be in this spot. Oh well, too late now. Ms. Garcia was a problem in society and had to be fixed. As long as there were people who existed like her, then Homes would exist to help solve the issues perpetuated by them.
“Why am I here? I know I didn’t fall. I would have remembered it!” Screamed Mariposa.
“It seems as though you don’t remember much anything these days Ms. Garcia. You do know how you are, don’t you sweetie? It’s okay, we are here to help you live in comfort for the rest of your natural life lovey.”
“I know who I am! But I don’t know who you are or where I am.”
“You had a fall and hit your head. We only want the best for you. You have seen me before. You have forgotten many things. Let me just calm you down darling.” Replied Brandy more calmly than she felt. She briefly left the room and said she was going to get some supplies to help her patient.
Mariposa was terrified because she knew that she was trapped. She was a victim of the system that she suffered from her entire existence. No one in her life truly cared for her but her cats. She hadn’t prayed in years, but she prayed that her boys would be well taken care of if there was a God above. It wasn’t long before the pretty nurse came back in with a syringe and inserted it in her arm after a brief struggle. The drug she put into arm offered the patient a quiet escape, and Brandy laughed inside, struggling to keep it in as not to seem too horribly evil. Just another day on the job, she thought calmly, pushing away her conscience.
The patient valiantly fought to the last minute, but to no avail. She quickly became another faceless drone on the highest quality pharmaceutical poison money could buy. The concoction of drugs she was given over the next several months delivered on the promise of comfort for the rest of her natural life, albeit shortened by a few years or so. No more did she have to suffer the ails of a perfect society she never belonged in and no more did they have to suffer her. Dr. Peter Pearl and his team continued to run their State Home under the guise of privacy, with heavy federal funding. Only the most well-off residents were allowed to live past the first several months to idle away their days on cards and stale ice cream. They earned that right with every penny payed.
Marco Garcia arrived with his young pregnant wife in to tow to a new house and two sad cats who missed their owner but fell in love with the new baby. He never did find out what happened to his aunt, but he made sure to honor her memory going as far as naming his newborn daughter after her.
Somewhere in a distance hospital room smelling of chemically balanced air and sterile supplies, a pristine white computer monitors blinked to life with the unsteady beat of a new heart. On the screen flew a monarch butterfly with a slight glitch of code in front of sugar blue skies and a zesty sun. The monitor just seemed off somehow, even to one of low intellect. The computer appeared to be alive, more than a computer had any right to be. A low purr filtered around the glow, with an underlying sigh of final contentment never gained in life.
A doctor entered the room through a doorway that groaned from the weight of many years. The doctor was very familiar with the mariposa flitting about on the screen. “Mi hermosa,” he whispered with few tears. “Mi hermosa, I’m sorry I failed you. The butterfly danced as only one with wings can do. Diego knew then that he could save his sister from the fate she had born.