I sat in front of the judge with my head hanging low.
It wasn’t because I was ashamed of myself: I wasn’t; because I hadn’t done anything wrong. But I felt guilty anyway because I had taken a life.
It was an accident, really.
I happened to be one of those cliched kids stuck in the foster system. Going from one abusive house to another, all I wanted was to come of legal age and be able to call my own shots. It didn’t matter if I had to work night and day to make ends meet or if I had to sleep in the streets. I’d definitely feel safer- be safer- on the street than under these roofs tinged with red and tears.
But there always comes a time when you can’t swallow it quietly anymore despite the bitter taste. There comes a time when you gotta spit it out- in their face.
That’s what happened that night when he tried to take a swing at me, with the toaster- no less. I took one hit, then two, and then no more as I reached out for the first thing that I could use to defend myself.
I only realised what I had done when I saw the knife sticking out of his chest.
And then I was on the floor, in shock, and his wife was wailing and then there was more wailing and lights and people. I just sat there on the floor drenched in his blood.
“Do you have last defence you wish to make?” The judge asked me, looking over his spectacles.
What more could I say? I had no argument bigger than: “it was an accident. I acted out in self defence.”
When I shook my head, still silent, the judge proceeded to give me my sentence.
“She will be given the Malignant Injection and wait for fate to give her her punishment.”
The Malignant Injection? They were going to inject me with Aflatoxin Q13?
Aflatoxin Q13 was a specially engineered toxin- a carcinogen to be precise- with 1000 times more potency than the regular toxin produced by the fungus Aspergillus. It was bound with a lipid soluble molecule that would go and inhabit the adipose tissue a.k.a the fat cells in the body and stay there for a long time, slowly releasing the toxin into the blood stream. Chronic exposure increased the risk of developing liver and gallbladder cancer, as aflatoxin metabolites cause mutations in the p53 gene, an important gene in preventing cell cycle progression when there are DNA mutations, or signaling cell death.
I remembered watching my uncle die of liver cancer when I was three, the event that put me into the evil claws of the foster system. I remembered cowering behind the door as he writhed in pain while clutching his stomach. His eyes turned yellow, then all of him turned yellow. He lost weight. He looked like one of those stick figures I drew of him with a yellow crayon. And then he started vomiting blood one day, and I knew that the end was near. It didn’t matter how many times I prayed to god or what I said, his incoherent mumbling right before he died would be louder than my soft sobs.
“But, sir!” I protested, fear finally giving me enough courage to speak. “Isn’t that too much?”
He appraised me over the edge of his spectacles. “Murderers get the death sentence. I have given you something far smaller in comparison.”
“But, cancer, Milord!”
“Yes, that is what you will develop if your fate deems it so. You shall not receive any treatment whatsoever. Not even palliation. And whenever fate deems fit for you to go, your life shall end then. Case dismissed.”
* * *
Tell me! I’m eager to know!