I drove into the parking lot of DonorLotto, Inc. “Are you sure about this, Man?”
Mark grinned. “Definitely. My sixty days are up and I am ready to go again.”
“You don’t think this place is a little creepy?”
“Not at all,” said Mark. “It’s a great way to get people to donate blood. And that’s a good thing, right? Encouraging us to help our fellow man.”
“While hoping to win a thousand dollars,” I said. “Why can’t people give blood for free, like they used to—with no strings attached?”
“They can. But most people don’t. That’s why they passed that new law,” said Mark. “When is the last time you gave blood?”
“It’s been…a while. But, you know, I’ve been busy.”
“Well then, Dude, you ought to play too. Give some blood. Win some money. The odds are 50 to 1. That’s way better than the regular lottery.”
“But how do they do that? Think about it. With those odds, it’s costing them twenty dollars for each person who plays the game.”
“Hey, I don’t know how they do, and I don’t care. All I know is that last time I walked out of here with one-thousand bucks in my pocket. Cash money.”
Mark frowned at the young woman behind the desk. “You mean I have to answer all those same questions again?”
“No, Sir. Not at all. You’re in our system now.”
Mark winked at me.
“Sir, I’m required to ask you this: Did you read the contract completely and carefully, and do you understand what you are agreeing to?”
“Yeah. Sure,” said Mark.”
“Then I just need your signature.”
Mark picked up the stylus, and scribbled his signature on the computer pad.
The woman signed as a witness. “Okay, Tony, he’s ready to go.”
“Right this way, Gentlemen.” Tony led us into a 10-by-10 foot room.
I was surprised at the thickness of the door, and wondered if it was soundproof.
Mark took a seat in the leather recliner.
I sat beside him in a straight chair.
Tony swung the game console around, positioning it right in front of Mark.
Mark immediately pushed the Go button, but nothing happened. “It’s not working.”
“Just a moment,” said Tony. “We need to get you all hooked up first.”
I looked away while Tony inserted a needle into Mark’s arm and taped it in place.
Tony pressed a few buttons on a large, heavy-looking piece of equipment labeled, Blood Limited Extraction Electronic Device (B.L.E.E.D.). “Okay, Mark. You’re all set. With each press of the Go button, you’ll get one chance to win, while donating one ounce of blood.”
“I understand,” said Mark. “Thanks.” He pressed Go, and the three reels on the game console screen lit up and began to spin. “Come on, Baby. One thousand smackers. Give it to me.”
The first reel stopped on a picture of a cat. The second reel also stopped on a cat.
“This is it, Man,” said Mark. “Here it comes!”
The third reel stopped on dog.
“Damn,” said Mark. “I was so close.”
The B.L.E.E.D. machine buzzed. According to the readout, one ounce of blood had just been extracted via Mark’s arm.
“That’s okay,” said Mark. “This time I really feel lucky.” He pressed Go.
Two dogs and a cat.
Once I got used to the idea, it was sort of fun watching him play. After all, it was for a good cause. And Mark had a great shot at winning the money.
I stood up. “Okay, Mark, it’s time to stop.”
“Not yet, Buddy. I’m so, so close. I can feel it in my veins.”
“That’s the blood—leaving your veins. Look, Mark.” I pointed to the readout on the B.L.E.E.D. “You’re at 50 ounces, Man.”
“But I’m feeling fine.”
“Well, you’re not looking fine.”
“I’m almost there. Just a couple more tries.”
“I don’t know, Mark. I think you’re at your limit.”
He pressed Go, and shouted, “Do it!”
I kept trying to convince him to quit, but nothing worked.
Then Mark went silent. I glanced at the readout: 68 ounces. Over four units of blood!
He didn’t move.
“Mark, wake up!”
I ran to the door. It was locked. I started banging. “Help! I need help in here!”
Soon, Tony walked in.
“Why did you lock the door?”
He ignored me, checking Mark’s vitals.
“Is he going to be okay?”
“He’s alive.” Tony pressed a button on the wall. “I need a stretcher in Room 12.”
A man’s voice responded over the speaker. “It’s on the way.”
I got in Tony’s face. “Where are you taking him?”
“Please step back, Sir. We are simply following the terms of the contract.”
“Terms of the contract? What terms?”
Two men in blue scrubs rolled a stretcher into the room.
Tony pulled a lever on the side of the recliner and lowered the back to a horizontal position.
I yelled at all three men, “What in the hell is going on?”
“Please step back, Sir,” said one of the men, as they transferred Mark to the stretcher.
I screamed, “I demand to know what you’re doing with my friend.”
One of the men took an envelope out of a plastic bag that was hanging from the side of the stretcher. He handed it to me. “Read the terms of the contract.”
I stood dumbfounded as they rolled Mark out of the room.
After they were gone, I opened the envelope and scanned the copy of Mark’s contract.
If, in the course of playing The Game, The Donor becomes unconscious, Section III of this contract shall be invoked.
I skipped to Section III.
I, The Donor, agree to donate my entire body to The Company. The Company shall have full discretion in regards to the disposition of The Donor’s body. In most cases, all viable organs will be harvested and sold on the open market. However, in certain cases, the entire cadaver, or parts thereof, may be donated to universities or research facilities.
I barely made it out the front door before I began to barf. As I stood there, vomiting all over their sidewalk and myself, two men in scrubs came out the door, walking toward me.
I ran to my car as fast as I could, stomach acid eating away at my throat.
The men ran after me. I didn’t know why they were following me, and I didn’t want to find out.
I jumped into my car and drove out of there like a maniac. My seat belt hung loose at my shoulder, unbuckled. I shot out of the parking lot, and plowed into the side of a passing garbage truck.
As my body was hurled toward the windshield, headfirst, I knew my fate was sealed. I would soon be joining Mark.
But I was wrong.
Two days later, I woke up in a hospital room, bandaged from head to toe.
A cheerful nurse walked into my room. “Oh, wonderful. You’re awake.”
I tried to speak, but nothing came out.
“Don’t try to talk right now. Your larynx was damaged in the accident—you know, your voice box. But the doctor did surgery on it, and he said you should be able to talk in a week or so.”
She walked over to the table and pointed to a beautiful arrangement of flowers.
“Did you see these? They’re beautiful, aren’t they?”
I tried to nod, but only my eyebrows moved.
“Let’s see who they’re from.” She opened the card. “Oh, isn’t this nice?” She walked over to my bed. “It’s like a credit card. It says: Your first 10 spins are FREE. At DonorLotto.”
My body began to shake—violently.
“Sir? Sir, are you okay?”
No! I was not okay. It all came rushing back to me:
My buddy, Mark. The game. The B.L.E.E.D. machine. The stretcher.