“Thank you for volunteering,” offered the sturdy redhead. The voice seemed a little cooler now, but Newman was grateful for the courtesy, however rote.
Over the next six hours he stood in line after line, queuing up to run on a treadmill, to be poked and prodded, weighed and measured, and finally to sign a stack of documents relieving the military of any duty to return him to society at any point, ever. As he scanned the documents for signature lines he couldn’t help but notice words like “in perpetuity,” and “waives all rights,” and “not responsible.”
It was the “not responsible” that stuck, playing over and over again in his mind, the record skipping on a crook in the groove. Here he was, signing over his right to make any assertive decision about his immediate future- his meals, his transportation, his lodging, even his minute-to-minute activities would be strictly controlled by the military- yet they were not responsible for him? They would direct and control his every move and monitor his every reaction, he was certainly no longer responsible for himself, but somehow neither were they. He could not be responsible for himself, and the military refused to be, and with each signature he felt one step closer to purgatory, suspended between this world and the next, floating between his past life and… something.
For the first time since he walked out of the jungle thirty years ago General Newman Ginger felt frightened. His mind raced with the possibilities. Torture. Maiming. Chemical poisoning. Legally, with this final signature, the United States military could do anything, he thought. They could fill him with stuffing and bake him like a turkey, he thought. They could force him to eat purple mushrooms and wrestle a bear, he thought. They could get bored and just shoot him, he thought, what if they just shoot me? What if that’s the entire experiment, they just shoot me and watch me die and then write a report about it, he thought?
He signed. And with this final signature he relieved the Defense Department of the United States of any responsibility for the consequences of their experiment. How can you sign a paper that grants someone the right to shoot you at will, with no consequences, he asked himself? It was insane. He felt insane. He saw himself scrawling the words General… Newman… Ginger… and he wanted to rip the pen from his own hand but he signed, controlled by some force beyond the hand, beyond the brain, beyond the panic.
Somewhere in the deepest, atrophied, dying core of Newman Ginger there was a man who craved the freedom and the terror of a complete loss of control.
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