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Monday, August 28, 2017

Review: Catalyst by Wayne A. Bibbs

Buy it today!

First thing to say, this is the first book I’ve read in one sitting for a long time. This includes poetry books. The book was compelling enough that I read it straight through over the course of three hours. I found some parts of the book were funny, some parts of the book were sweet.

The basics: Mark Layton is an everyman with Sherlockian deductive powers. He seems shy and withdrawn at the beginning, but for some reason gains the kind of courage and self assurance necessary to talk to the girl of his dreams, Alicia.

Essentially, this is a superhero story without being a superhero story. Mark has the power to melt fat and tighten skin of anyone. He charges money for the service at first, but in benevolence, he makes the trek to Wisconsin to melt a 900 lb man for free so he can live a better life.  This is just one example of Mark’s superhero incorruptibility, another is the second person he melts (after his now wife, Alicia), Sheila, becomes obsessed with him.

Mark takes on almost a martyr quality and the audience is intended to follow along with him, in his shoes, possibly portraying the best possible outcome on purpose to give the audience a bit of hope in their lives, that beauty is deeper than skin.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Lawbreaker - Chapter 5 by Azriel Johnson

    Peter grunted and pulled the syringe out of his leg and sat back.  Justin, his client looked at his social worker and grunted back.  “It’s what you get for....”  His speech dropped off and he realized what he’d done.
    “Oh, shit.  I’m sorry, Pete.  I just woke and you were there.  I thought you were... shit.  What can I do?”

    Peter pulled his phone from his pocket and called his office.  A brief explanation of what happened ensued and Peter stood, limping, sort of.  “Dammit, Justin.  I can’t believe you would do something like that.  You’re positive for gods sake.”
    Justin pulled his legs to his chest and rocked back and forth with no response.
    “Dammit,” Peter said under his breath again as he walked to the exit of the hollowed out building.  He made his way out of the complex through the fence and flagged down the ambulance that approached.
    The ambulance slowed down and Peter collapsed.
    He awoke in the hospital.  He wasn’t sure exactly how long it had been.  He inhaled, tugged at his blanket and tugged up his gown.  He saw a huge blue bruise at the injection point.  He breathed out and laid back.
    The nurse entered his room.  “You’re awake I see.”  She checked his temperature and blood pressure.
    “How long has it been?  What exactly is going on with me?” Peter said.
    “The doctor will be in with you in a moment.”
    When the doctor arrived, Peter asked, “So what’s going on?”
    “The paramedics got you here quickly, but as you were unconscious we didn’t know exactly what was wrong with you.”
    “How long has it been?” Peter asked.
    “About 72 hours,” the doctor said.
    “So no one started PEP?  Someone from my office should have told the ambulance I was exposed to HIV.”
    “No,” the doctor said.  “Nurse, we need an HIV test, Truvada and Raltegravir.”
    The nurse rushed out of the room.  The doctor said to Peter, “Peter, you’re familiar with PEP so you know we’re going to start you on a regimen daily for the next four weeks.  This combination is highly effective, but it isn’t 100% effective, especially this long after exposure.”
    The first test was negative.
    Four weeks later, the test was negative.  Peter thought he was in the clear.
    Three months went by.  Another test.  Negative.  Things looked brighter.  Peter worked as normal.  He hung out with his niece during her ordeal in the hospital.  They both had their mental and emotional trials.
    The six month mark, the moment of truth.  If Peter was clear this time, he was likely in the clear for good.
    The blood draw was relatively painless, aside from the prick at the beginning.  Peter watched the purplish-red blood drain into three tubes.  Peter smiled at the nurse taking his blood.  He felt an itch.
    He turned his face and sneezed.

~ * ~

    Justin followed the greyish-beige man through a doorway to a wide expansive room.  Standing in the center, a man pointed to different window trimmings.  He ordered people to do different things around the room and using various abilities including telekinesis, the room moved and changed to suit the whims of the man.
    “Sir,” the greyish-beige man said.  “I’ve brought him.”
    “Thank you, Nix,” the man said.  “Stay close, but not too close.”
    Nix, the greyish-beige man nodded and stepped back.
    “My name is Enos,” the leader said to Justin.
    “Why should I care?” Justin said.
    “Because, if I wanted to I could have had you killed.”
    “How do you figure?”
    “Hrm,” Enos stopped.  He moved completely into Justin’s personal space.
    Justin stepped back.  “Hey man, that’s too close.”
    Enos stepped forward again.  “Makes you uncomfortable, eh?”
    Justin stepped back again.  “No, I just don’t want to have to hurt you.”
    “Hrm,” Enos said again.  “You don’t even understand your power yet, do you?”
    Justin said, “I can hold things down or make them raise.  Seems pretty simple.”
    Enos sniffed.  “Try it on me.”
    Justin put a hand on Enos and concentrated.  He felt the power move through him, but nothing happened.  Enos swung his right hand up and around and chopped down on Justin’s arm.  In the same motion, his left hand struck Justin in the center of his chest, knocking him 10 feet away and onto his back.
    Justin extended his hand at Enos and nothing happened.  “What the hell?”
    Enos took two steps toward Justin and offering his hand to pull him up, revealing a bracelet.  Justin took Enos’ hand and grunted.  “You’re blocking my power somehow.”
    Enos smiled.  “You’re learning.  But enough about me.  You need to learn about yourself.  I can help you, but you’ve got to be willing to reign yourself in.”
    “Why should I listen to you?”
    “Because I know a thousand ways to kill you right now with just my bare hands, let alone the multitudes here who would have no problem ripping you apart mentally or physically.  I’ve been alive a long time.  I’ve learned many things and made many loyal allies.  I am willing to include you in that ally-ship, or kill you.  Makes no difference to me, but I see potential in your abilities if you are willing to control them.  If not, then there is no use for you.”
    Justin took Enos’ hand and Enos pulled Justin to his feet.  Enos turned to Nix.  “You can resume your search, bring me back any potentials as you recover them.  This was a good find, thank you.”
    Nix bowed and turned away.
    Justin said, “I, have a question....”
    Enos nodded.  “Ask.”
    “What if I can’t control it?”
    “You’re new to the power, is that correct?”
    “Yes.  I was just injected yesterday.”
    “Remarkable, I haven’t seen any injectors gain their powers so quickly, though I suppose with your particular power it makes sense.”
    “If my power isn’t holding things down or raising them up, what is it?  Do you know?”
    Enos smiled.  “Of course I know.  But I ascribe to the philosophy, give a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, you feed him for his life.  Then he owes that life to you.”

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Lawbreaker - Chapter 4 by Azriel Johnson

            Peter didn’t take it personally.  “You’re a failure as an uncle” was not delivered with malice.  He could tell she was only barely containing her excitement.  He understood her reluctance to show appreciation.  She was 13, it was to be expected.  He also understood her agitation concerning her powers, or lack thereof.

            Peter’s former job as a drug counselor brought him into many dangerous situations.  He was never a large man, so at first, none of the people he worked with showed him respect.  This changed in the addicts that wanted to change, but in others it just inspired anger.

            He was at a home visit... well okay home was stretching it... one of his clients asked him to meet off the beaten track where a lot of homeless folks stayed.  It was a large, abandoned factory at the edge of town, before Peter moved to Civitas.

            A good thing about Civitas was there were no large, abandoned factories.

            He knew it was a bad idea, especially when you have to climb a wood pile and go through a chain-link fence to even get into the complex, but sometimes you have to meet someone where they are.  He did not forget to let the office know where he was going and when to expect him back and if he didn’t answer his cell phone in an hour to come get him.

            The factory itself was expansive.  The creep factor was low, but risk for tetanus was high, but Peter wasn’t worried about accidentally cutting himself on anything.

            He walked around quietly.  The expanse seemed mostly uninhabited.  Generally, he figured the homeless folks who lived here were out begging or otherwise occupying their time around the town.  Some were hopefully trying to find jobs or scraps of food or maybe shoplifting from the local thrift store.  Anything was preferable to the potentiality of wrapping themselves in drugs.

            He found his client passed out on a dirty, patchwork blanket on a wooden platform in an upper level of the factory.  A needle stuck out of his arm with a tourniquet released and left Peter pulled out a bottle of water from his knapsack and put a bit of water on his hand to put on the client’s face.  To rouse him.

            “C’mon, buddy, snap out of it,” Peter said.

            Peter pulled the Narcan out of his knapsack.  He peeled back the package, put the device under the client’s nose.  He inhaled, then pressed the plunger up and into the client’s nose.  Peter sat back and breathed out, trying to relax.  He pulled the syringe out of the client’s arm and put it to the side.  He crouched next to the client, waiting for them to snap out of the high.

            The client shook his head and his eyes opened.  He blinked rapidly for a few moments, then looked at Peter.  Anger crossed his face.  “What the shit.  You sonofabitch.”  The client’s head turned to the side and saw his syringe.  He grabbed it and jammed it into Peter’s inner thigh.  “That’s what you get for waking me up.”

            Peter sat backwards with the syringe in his leg.  There were no drugs, but he remembered earlier visits with his client and knew his ‘positive status.’

            Peter inhaled.  “What the hell, Justin?”

~ * ~

            The three police officer’s had powers and tried to use them.  The first cop, a thin, white man extended his hand and electricity flew towards Justin.  He raised his hand and the electricity entered his body.  His nerves did not react the way someone normally would, by contracting and falling over.  Instead, Justin absorbed the energy and it focused at his heart.  His eyes immediately struck red with the vessels bulging.  He ran at the first cop and punched him in the chest, lifting him off of the ground and into a teller window.  He lost consciousness as his head smacked off of a desk behind the divider.

            The crowd in the job office ran from the scene, screaming.  In the confusion, Justin moved towards the other two officers without them attacking, for fear of hitting some of the bystanders.

            The second officer, a black woman inhaled and breathed icy exhalation at Justin.  Instead of freezing in place as intended, Justin gathered the cold breath around his left fist and backhanded the officer.  She flew backward over a table, into a computer and onto the floor.  She didn’t move.

            The third officer, extended both arms out and down, away from his body and was surrounded in fire.  He must have had a specialized suit because it did not burn off of him.  He ran at Justin with both hands extended.

            The fire hands clasped Justin’s shoulders.  Justin expected pain, but it was as if the energy from the fire was just being flung off into space, displaced or maybe... destroyed.  Justin looked into the blackened eyelets of the police inferno.  He concentrated and the fire extinguished over the cop.  The cop fell to his knees and looked up plaintively at Justin.

            “Is murder against the law?” Justin asked the cop.

            The cop blinked.  “Yes.”

            Justin held up his right hand, covered in flames, as if created from nowhere.

            A greyish-beige hand caught his arm and the flame extinguished.

            Justin followed the hand that held his arm and grunted.  “Who are you?”

            “Someone stopping you from doing something stupid.”

            “What are you talking about?  I’m just here for a job.”

            “What job is that?  Murdering innocent police officers?”

            “Police are hardly innocent.”

            “These officers are.  They were all tops in their class.  They regularly engage in public outreach and help the homeless find work.”

            “What do I care?  They attacked me.”

            The greyish-beige person pulled Justin away from the defeated police officer.  “You are not in a position to not care, because the more problems you cause, the more likely you’ll attract the wrong kind of attention.  I can kill you now, or you can come with me and we can help you get a handle on these abilities you have.”

            “What makes you think I need a handle on my abilities?  I have them under control!”

            “No,” the condescendingly calm voice said.  “I have control over them.  You were about to murder someone with no reason.”

            “Oh.”  Justin breathed out as if snapping into sudden realization.  “Oh, shit.  Okay, take me with you.”

Friday, August 4, 2017

Lawbreaker - Chapter 3 by Azriel Johnson

    Thirteen-year-old Sam did NOT run into her uncle Peter’s arms like 10, 11, even 12 year old Sam did.  This was teenage Sam now, someone no longer interested in people pleasing or uncle smiling.  Even though Peter was still Sam’s favorite uncle… she figured it would be a good five or so years until she would be outwardly grateful again.  He knew she loved him.  If it wasn’t for Peter, Sam wouldn’t be alive.  She put on airs that she didn’t want to be alive sometimes, but that was the teenager talking again, the depression, the hormones, the everything.
    She also had yet to develop her powers.  This was problematic.
    Most people developed their powers right away, within weeks, days or even hours of their Curasol injection, but Sam still waited.  It had been five and there were some dangerous complications associated with that.
    One percent of people injected with Curasol developed the ability to block other powered person’s abilities.  So in theory, a 1%er could walk by a flyer and without even trying, make them crash, almost instantly, unless the flyer had enough momentum to move past the 1%er’s sphere of influence.
    One percenters also developed a raging psychosis which turned almost all of them into maniacs, murderers, generally menaces to society.  Sam was especially worried about this development.  She knew she had dark thoughts, but she didn’t want to hurt anyone, at least not yet.  Not ever!  But if she were a 1%er she might start wanting that and she didn’t want that!
    She was content with just being a teenager and getting a power she could use for good, like her uncle, even though she never smiled at him when he told her of his adventures.
    He stopped a five-year-old with shockwave powers.  Admittedly, cool.  Sam shrugged it off with a scoff.  “Pfft, a five-year-old.  What a big man.”
    Peter smiled.  He knew what was happening.  He didn’t mind the snark.  He’d had it too at her age.
    “Hey,” Peter said.  “I got you a present.”
    “What is it?”
    “Close your eyes.”
    Sam rolled her eyes, then closed them.
    Peter ducked out of the room and returned with a life sized cut out of Torsion, another level 1 powered individual, often called a hero by the rest of the world.  Torsion had super strength.  From the inhalation Repeat had taken during one particularly harrowing battle, Torsion was the physically strongest powered person in existence.  Torsion allowed Repeat to take the picture after the battle.  Repeat took the picture to the local print shop and had it pasted on a cardboard stand and some careful cutting later, voila!
    Last Peter knew, Sam was still head over heels for Torsion.  She even got to meet him once in plain clothes (Torsion wore a hero costume when he was ‘on duty’).  Torsion was cordial to his young fan and Sam accidentally drooled on Torsion’s hand when they shook.
    “Ready?” Peter said.  “Open your eyes.”
    Sam opened her eyes.  She looked the Torsion cut out up and down and sniffed.  “You’re a failure as an uncle.”  She grabbed the cardboard cut out and carried it to her set aside room in Peter’s apartment.  She carefully set up the cardboard cut out to stand next to the bed opposite the door and laid down staring at the figure.  She smiled the biggest smile she had in months.

~ * ~

    Justin saw the job line at City Hall and scoffed.  Without a word, he walked to the front of it.  This, of course, angered the person at the head of the line, who had no doubt stood in that line for an hour.
    “Hey, pal,” the person, now behind Justin said.  “There’s a line.  Get to the back of it.”
    “I don’t have time,” Justin said.  “I have to get a job.”
    “We all have to get a job.  You gotta wait your turn.”
    Justin didn’t turn back to face the angry line mob.  The angry mob became angrier when the clerk yelled, “Next!” and Justin walked forward.
    “You won’t like me when I get pissed, pal,” the head of the line said.
    “What are you going to do?” Justin asked, challenging, but still not turning around.
    The head of the line growled and conjured a ball of fire in his hands.  The fire in his hands matched the shock of red hair on his head.  “They call me Fireball.  If you don’t get to the back of the line, you’re going to see why.”
    Justin pointed at the clerk, “One sec.”  He turned and watched as Fireball’s hands moved around the ball of fire.
    “Where do you get the fire from?” Justin asked.
    “I heat up the air to the point the molecules separate, hydrogen from oxygen, then I heat up the hydrogen to make a perpetual fire.”
    Justin took a few steps forward.  “So, you make a tiny sun.  That’s not safe.”
    Fireball smirked.  “You gonna head to the back of the line?”
    “No,” Justin said.  He held his thin right pointer finger out and poked the tiny sun.
    As if someone snuffed the ball like a match, it disappeared.  It wasn’t put out.  It wasn’t sucked up into anything.  It just vanished.  There was no last hurrah of vaporization.  Just… gone.
    Fireball stepped back.
    Justin stepped forward.  He put his hand on Fireball’s chest, Fireball immediately hit the floor and couldn’t move.  “What… are you… doing to… me?” Fireball barely managed to croak out the words.
    Justin bent at the waist to come face to face with Fireball.  “I’m breakin’ the law.”
    Justin stood up straight and turned to go back to his transaction.  Trouble was, now there were three police officers in his way.  Justin cracked his knuckles and neck.
    “I guess this means, no jobs for me today.”

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Lawbreaker - Chapter 2 by Azriel Johnson

    If there was one thing that Peter didn’t love about Civitas, it was the lack of personal responsibility.
    Peter watched Maggie’s parents take her by each hand and walk away from the destruction.  They said they were ‘literally five minutes away in the head shop.’  They didn’t want to bring Maggie into the shop so they told her to stand at the door way and they would be right back.
    Admirable, Peter mock-reasoned, except the part where the daughter has the destructive power of a tiny tornado.  Maybe that would be her code name when she got old enough to register.  Tiny Tornado.

    Another issue with Civitas, and the general populous really.  People who developed powers after being injected with Curasol, they had to register with the CED (Crisis Evaluation Division).  The CED assessed each registered person with powers and their threat level.  The top most level was 10.  These were powered individuals with high destructive potential.  It was a sliding scale, not just determined by powers, but by their temperament.
    Powered individuals who were given a clean evaluation (5 or below), were allowed to pick their own code names and could participate, or not, in local law enforcement proceedings if their powers were appropriate for the actions.
    So, for example, the police came by to survey the mess Maggie made, Repeat (Peter’s code name), told them the situation and how it was handled and the police would handle the paper work after.
    Powered individuals with a 6 and above were given an opportunity for probation to prove themselves willing to be helpful and not a nuisance or a threat.  Over time, even a level 10 could work themselves to a threat level 5.
    Peter was a level 1, a general all around good guy with a power that was not inherently destructive.  When he witnessed a power being used near him, he could inhale and replicate that power until he breathed out.  Fine, as long as he kept his feet on the ground.  Less good if he were trying to fly.
    Flying would be good right now, he thought as he tried to make it back to his apartment to meet his niece and sister.  Sam Rhee was strong willed.  She’d also had some hardship in her first 13 years.  She was diagnosed with leukemia at age 5.  No one thought she would survive a year, but she made it three before things looked bleak enough that her mother, Kimberley, started covertly making end of life arrangements.
    If it hadn’t been for her Uncle Peter, they might have lost her.

~ * ~

    “You’re still quite underweight, Justin,” the doctor said as the young man sat up perfectly straight, with no sign of the cancer in his body.  “How much do you eat?”
    “Not much, really,” Justin said.  “I don’t really like food.  I drink a lot of water.”
    “My recommendation would be to schedule yourself a time to eat a balanced meal of carbohydrates, proteins and greens at least three times a day to make sure your body is getting enough nutrients.”
    Justin shrugged.  “I’ve been unemployed and homeless for the past two years.  I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity to choose what I eat.  I just kind of adapted, I guess.”
    The doctor sat back in her chair.  “Tell you what, we’ll go down to the cafeteria, I’ll get you anything you want.  There are jobs in Civitas for people willing to work.”
    Justin smiled.  “I am definitely willing to work.”
    For someone who didn’t like food, Justin ate a lot in the cafeteria.  The food wasn’t great, but that didn’t matter as the corn, beef, bread, potatoes, broccoli, carrots and more all slid down into Justin’s stomach.
    Finally, he was full.  He looked at the doctor and thanked her, profusely.
    The doctor smiled.  “No worries.  Go to the Civitas City Hall to find the Job Services division.  Let me know if there are any complications associated with your treatment.”
    Complications, Justin thought.  He’d heard people had some interesting reactions after being injected with Curasol.  Extraordinary abilities.  Justin just hadn’t wanted to die, but with the injection a world of possibilities might be open to him now.
    He wasn’t worried about this now.  He left the hospital, stuffed his discharge papers into his back jeans pocket and slinked down the sidewalk.  He knew he had to cross the street.  10 feet from the corner he hopped off the sidewalk and into the street right between two cars inching along the busy streets.
    He weaved his way through the cars like he was playing a video game bent on avoiding cars.  He reached the other side of the street and a whistle ripped out from behind him.
    A police officer raced up to him and grabbed him by the arm.  “You just did a dangerous thing there, son.”  The officer boomed with authority.
    “Did what?” Justin asked.
    “Jaywalking,” the cop said.  “That’s against the law.”
    “Oh, uh,” Justin said.  “Sorry?  ‘Kay.  Bye.”
    “I’m not done with you yet!”
    The police officer tried to turn Justin’s arm on the fulcrum of his elbow, but Justin’s arm bent out and around as he turned toward the cop.  The cop tried to put a handcuff around Justin’s wrist, but Justin’s other hand snatched the cuffs from the cop and popped it on the officer’s wrist instead and pulled him toward a bike rack, hooking the other cuff to the bike rack.
    “I don’t have time to be arrested right now,” Justin said.  “I have to get a job.”
    Justin patted the cop down.  He found and unhooked the officer’s keys.  “I’m going to take these and hang them somewhere.  In the mean time, you can think about what you’ve done.”
    The police officer pulled his gun.  “Stop right there.”
    “No,” Justin said.  He held out his hand and the gun slammed the officer’s hand to the ground.  The police officer struggled to get his hand from beneath the gun.
    “Weird,” Justin said.  “Okay, bye.”
    Justin crossed the street again, going diagonally, avoiding the crosswalks and the traffic.  He wasn’t even thinking about it.  He twirled the keys on his finger and flung them into the air, about five feet behind him, where they stayed suspended in the air.  He turned the corner out of sight of the cop and gun and the keys.  The cop could lift his hand again and the keys dropped into the middle of the street.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Lawbreaker - Chapter 1 by Azriel Johnson

    Peter Rhee loved the busy streets of Civitas.
    The bustling streets reconstructed so quickly after the cataclysm that if you didn’t know the history of the city, you could never tell.  The buildings were pristine.  The streets were clean with garbage cans at every corner and people actually *gasp* didn’t litter.
    Peter smiled at his own internal monologue and whistled softly as he walked down the street.  He was on his way to the MiniMart to grab some soda and bottled water.  His niece was coming over to hang out (her mom called it babysitting, but the niece was old enough now that her daughter was no longer a baby).
    A rumbling.  Subtle at first.

    Peter stood at the corner of Main and Broadway, the absolute center of the city.  He looked left.  Nothing unusual.  He looked right.  Nothing unusual.  No.  Wait.  A car flying in the air towards some bystanders.  Peter was useless unless....
    He looked around.  A woman on Main just around the corner from the flying car was lifting the front end of her own car and ripping the immobilization boot from the tire so she could leave.  The tickets clung to her windshield.
    Peter inhaled the surge of power.  He crouched and jumped over to where the car was about to land, smack dab on the heads of a family of five.
    Peter landed and held up his hands to block the flying car, denting the blue sedan’s roof.  Quickly, before he needed to breathe out, he dumped the car off to the street.  He turned to the frightened family.  “RUN!”
    Peter stomped with a purpose towards the source of the flying cars.  He couldn’t tap the strength again without going back to the boot stripping woman, so he’d have to improvise.  Someone with speed whizzed by.  Peter inhaled the surge of that person’s power and zipped forward, until he saw who was causing the ruckus.
    A small child, crying, throwing a temper tantrum.  She batted her arms like she was flying and shockwaves flew off of her in intermittent blasts throwing cars and people away from her.
    Peter had prepared to punch out whomever was causing the destruction, but he couldn’t hit a kid.  Could he?  Nah, Peter shook his head.  Let’s try to be a little more diplomatic.
    He exhaled and the speed left his body.  “Shit.”  He inhaled on one of the child’s blasts and blocked it just in time to save an old woman from being slammed into a building.  He crouched, holding his breath and moved toward the child.  As the child waved her arms, he pushed against the shockwaves minimizing their effect.  He was running out of breath and he wasn’t close enough to the child.
    He held his hands up to her and waved.  She looked at Peter.  Without breathing out, he croaked, “What’s your name, honey?”
    The child sniffled, “Maggie.”
    Peter, still holding his breath, “What’s the problem?”
    “I can’t find my mommy and daddy.”
    “Okay,” Peter said, barely hanging onto his breath.  “If I help you find them, will you calm down?”
    Maggie nodded and Peter let out his breath.  The power faded from his body and he half-smiled.
    “Here,” Peter said.  “Take my hand.  We’ll find your parents.”
    Maggie put her small hand into Peter’s and smiled, rubbing at her eyes.
    Peter surveyed the destruction caused by this five-year-old.  “Good thing Civitas has disaster insurance.”

~ * ~

    In another part of the city, Justin Caesar felt blurry.  He stumbled along the sidewalk, running into the buildings on his right side or into the street to his left.  Every time he coughed, there was blood.  He had come a long way.  He was homeless, hadn’t been employed since becoming an adult.  He was destitute and afflicted with a weird form of tuberculosis... or at least that’s what he thought.  He didn’t have money for a doctor after all.
    He saw the sign, “Free Clinic” and heaved himself in that direction.  Civitas was Mecca, the Taj Mahal, the source of all that was good and right with the world.  It cured people with incurable ailments.  He was only a few steps from the doors.
    He stumbled over the sidewalk and collapsed in the street.  He couldn’t move.  He could only see darkness.
    Who knows how long passed before Justin’s eyes opened to a blind bar light above him.  His irises narrowed and he could focus a little better.  The light softened as his eyes got used to it.  He turned his head to the left and saw a clear IV drip feeding into his left arm.  He turned his head to the right and saw a red IV drip feeding into his right.
    “Hello,” he called out.
    The shink of curtains being drawn back from his makeshift cubicle revealed a nurse.  She put a hand to his wrist to check his pulse.  She put a stethoscope to his chest to listen to his breathing.
    “Where am I?” Justin asked.
    “The Civitas Free Clinic,” the nurse said.
    “What... what are these things in my arms?” he asked.
    “The doctors diagnosed lung cancer.  This is Curasol.  You’ll be fixed in no time.”
    Justin smiled.  “I already feel better.”
    The nurse smiled back.  “That’s kind of the point of Curasol.  It opens the body up to all its curative properties and allows the body to fight off any infection, diseases or syndromes.”
    “You sound like a commercial,” Justin said, lightheartedly.
    The nurse put a hand on Justin’s head.  “Well, what can I say?  When something works as well as Curasol, who am I to be negative about it?  You should rest.  By this time tomorrow you should be right as rain.”
    Justin closed his eyes.  From beneath his eyelids, he observed the light above him turn off.
    Words bounced through Justin’s head as he drifted off into mental haze.  Right as rain.  Rain as right.  Wrong as rain.  Wrong as drought.  Rain as wrong.  Right as drought.  Right as wrong.  Wrong as right.