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4| Dead men tell no tales

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I begin to struggle against my cuffs. "You don't need to do this," I breathe, kicking and pulling at my restraints. "I'm not going to misbehave. I promise."

Reyes' hands clamp down on my shoulders like weights, trying to keep me still. "Calm down," he growls, his breath warm against my neck. "It's all right."

His words somehow break through my panic. I search his face, desperate for a sign that he's telling the truth. Instead, I find nothing. You can't read the eyes of a man who doesn't want to be read.

"Now, now, Miss Gomez," Litchfield says. "If you follow the rules and behave yourself, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. The device will only be used on those who become unmanageable before entering the arena."

"Will it hurt?" I ask as Doctor Litchfield walks around the table, positioning himself behind me.

"Just for a second," he assures me, pressing the knife to my neck.

"Wait!" I shout, my heart pounding harder. "Are you even a real doctor?" I already know he is, since this is no longer considered unethical for doctors. I just want to delay that scalpel plunging into my neck for as long as possible. "At school," I swallow, "they tell us doctors refused to administer the lethal injection because it went against their ethics. Doesn't this go against your ethics?"

It's true, too. In History class, we learn the government got rid of the lethal injection in favor of the Harvest because the lethal injection went against the eighth amendment.

It was discovered that drug dosages differed greatly among states, and as doctors couldn't ethically perform the procedure, it was being performed by those unqualified to do so. This caused some of the inmates to experience pain during their execution, making the punishment cruel and unusual.

Death via organ donation, however, which would later become known as the Harvest, did have a benefit, and therefore could be justified and conducted by professional doctors. The Harvest is considered both humane and painless and means an inmate's death now serves a purpose. Society has one less dangerous criminal walking the earth and their organs can be donated to somebody who deserves them–in theory.

"Of course I'm a real doctor," Litchfield says,
bemusement lacing his words. "The Arena of Justice isn't cruel or unusual, Zoe, not when the inmates volunteer for this."

Reyes positions his mouth near my ear again, causing my heart rate to spike. "The less you struggle, the sooner it will be over. All right?" "Thanks for the advice," I say, but I keep my eyes fixed on his, using him to center myself as the tip of the scalpel rests against my skin.

I didn't raise you to be weak, my father's words echo.

He might not be here, he might have abandoned me a long time ago, but I imagine him standing over me in Reyes' place, his thick eyebrows furrowed and his mouth a thin line. He spent most of his life pushing my brother and I to be harder, crueler, because the world is a monster and if we didn't want to be eaten, we had to be the bigger monsters. Now I realize he was preparing me for something like this all along; I don't know whether to resent him or thank him.

The scalpel cuts deep, causing a searing hot pain to shoot across my neck. Reyes instantly moves his hand to mine, allowing me to grip it as Litchfield gets to work, prodding and pulling at the open incision. Blood trickles along my skin, the incision beginning to pulsate. Litchfield takes a small chip from out of a thin metal case and places it into my neck. I grip Reyes' hand as hard as I can, knowing my nails must be cutting his skin, but he doesn't pull away.

"There," Litchfield soothes after jiggling the chip into place. "The hard part is over." He cleans the incision and proceeds to glue it back up before pulling off his surgical gloves. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"

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