Hope you enjoy this excerpt from "Donor 23"!
The little girl yanked at the binds tied around her wrists. Two nurses stood over her. One held up a long, glistening needle attached to a tube snaking under the gurney. The girl wanted to lash out and kick the women, but nylon straps strangled her ankles against the metal rungs of the bed.
As one nurse held the girl’s left arm steady, the one with the needle tightened an elastic band just above the girl’s elbow. Soon the veins in her arm bulged. With her fingers the nurse began pushing at a vein, coaxing it closer to the surface. The artery’s bluish-purplish tint contrasted against the girl’s lightly tanned skin. She lowered the needle to the skin.
The girl squirmed.
“Calm down,” the nurse uttered, annoyed.
Just one hour ago, the nine-year-old had been playing a rousing game of kickball on her neighborhood streets. She hadn’t paid attention as the dark uniformed officers drove up and began checking the tattoos of the young girls in the area. When they scanned her tattoo, one officer announced, “This is her. It’s 23.”
They pulled her toward their black van. She resisted them, kicking, hitting, and screaming.
“Wait. NO!” she wailed. “My mom? Where’s my mom? MOM! DAD! NO!”
The slam of the van’s thick door behind her stung her ears, and she stopped screaming. No sounds from the street could be heard inside the van, and the opposite was also true. After the bright sunlight, the darkness inside enveloped her. She plastered her tear-streaked face against the van’s blackened window and saw her friends on the street watch in horror as the van drove away.
Now, she lay strapped hand and foot to the hospital gurney. The elastic band squeezed ever tighter on her arm. She felt as if her arm were a balloon, filling up with too much air, about to explode.
“She gave a bloody lip to one of the officers,” chuckled the nurse with the needle.
“It’s her first tax. And it’s an emergency surgery,” the second nurse murmured.
She leaned closer to the young child, “Settle down, 23. It’s easier that way.”
“I want my mom,” she cried. “My dad, please,” she begged. “What are you taking from me?”
“It’s just a minor donation. You’ll be fine,” the second nurse tried to calm her, gently brushing the girl’s light brown hair off her forehead.
But the girl didn’t relax. She wasn’t fine. With surprising strength for her age and size, she jerked her arm, stretching the nylon restraint band almost to its breaking point.
The nurse with the needle angrily stepped back, “This is crazy. Our Governor’s daughter is waiting in the next room, and we’re fighting with this donor kid. Our Governor! I’m not getting fired over this. Or sent to some labor camp.”
With vicious force both women pressed hard on the girl’s small shoulders, pinning her down and indenting the bolts of the gurney’s underlying metal frame into her back. The girl yelped in pain.
A man dressed in surgical clothes stormed into the room.
“Ready?” he demanded.
“Oh, Dr. Melnick,” the second nurse said with apprehension. “Almost. Getting the anesthesia in. It’s her first surgery. She’s fighting us.”
“Hurry up. Her benefactor’s already prepped.”
The doctor towered over the gurney, and the child froze under his stern gaze. Taking advantage of the momentary gap in the girl’s struggles, the nurse quickly inserted the needle. The little girl jerked at the prick. A quick slap of strong tape held the needle in place, pierced deeply into the girl’s vein. Her blue eyes opened wide, spellbound as the nurse squeezed at a bag hanging nearby full of a green liquid, forcing it into the tube.
“A little fighter? That’ll have to change,” Dr. Melnick said impatiently, as he shook the tube to ensure it had no kinks to stop the lime-colored fluid from reaching its destination.
The girl fixated on the green liquid, unable to take her eyes from it as it slithered leisurely down the tube, creeping closer toward the needle into her arm, closer to her vein, closer to her lifeblood. The nurse squeezed the bag again, to hurry the powerful narcotic along its way. The girl realized it was over.
But like an animal in its last death throe, the girl’s strength welled up one final time, and she struggled violently, wrenching at the straps. The nurses didn’t care. They let her struggle. And the green slime reached the needle and flowed inside her.
A coldness permeated her arm. Little by little, the freeze crept up the inside of her arm to her shoulder. The chill reached to her neck. A frostiness. Did they inject her with ice water? Her eyelids seemed heavy, and she fought to keep them open.
As the child drifted off, in her last final bit of consciousness, the doctor’s voice echoed distantly in her ears. Like a judge issuing a life sentence in a simple way that made it all the more damning, Melnick uttered:
“You’ll get used to it, 23.”