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Alessandra Sands: Burning Bridges by Ryan Fu (Chapter 1 – Genesis)


   “Who are you?”

There are bodies upon bodies scattered around the Clearing Control Room, half Saviors and half Horsemen. Around their bodies were blood soaked weapons that surrounded them like a chalk outline. It looked like a dirty bomb exploded inside the room with the amount of blood and body parts that painted “CCR” like Pollack piece. I’m covered from head to toe with my own and other people’s blood as it mixes in with my fiery orange-red hair. Ironically, LCD Soundsystem’s Dance Yrself Clean is playing in my head as get closer to my goal. I was bruised, beaten and tired, but that wasn’t stopping me. 

I finally had my hands around her neck sucking the life out of her as they glow bright yellow like the Sun with the exception that I wasn’t giving life, I was taking it. I have this anger inside of me that burns like an uncontrollable brush fire, which cannot be extinguished with broken promises and false hopes because I know the truth now. I could see the veins popping out of her eyes as she tries to stop me but she can’t. I am the Phoenix rising out of the ashes of fallen Rome. 

I felt powerful. 

Feeling everything around me from the aliment of the stars to the full moon, to the high-tech gadgets clicking and clanking, to the video cameras recording our every move, as I could hear the pounding of flesh, tasting the sweet texture of blood in my mouth. I’m using my new set of tools of destruction to the worst of my abilities.

I felt ravenous. I felt alive.

“Alessandra, you have to kill her or we all die!” Ace screaming at me as he lies there dying from the shotgun wound with his blood all over the floor.

I hover over the Counselor as she begins to turn into Casper as I literally suck every ounce of her life.  If you asked me a week ago this where I would be in my life, I would have laughed at you calling you insane. But amazingly this was my life now and everyone was counting on me because I was the last chance to stop all this madness. I was everyone’s best and worst chance to a new life, which I don’t think I was ready for it.

I wasn’t always this way. I wasn’t always this angry or this confident. My hair wasn’t always “Kissed by Fire” because I was very far from what I am today. Maybe we should start in the beginning before all this craziness, before I was destined to be humanities savior and last best hope. 

A week ago I was just a regular accountant working for a private company that works with the government as a Clearing agent. Clearing agents file the necessary paperwork for volunteered and chosen departed. In the not too far distant future, suicide is not outlawed but accepted. There are even convince store like businesses that you can walk into, where you can fill up paper work and they take care of you like you a dental procedure. You’re in and you never come out. They’re called Bridges because they help you onto your next destination in the afterlife.

With overpopulation, the lack of resources for everyone, the wars and people killing each other every single day for meaningless things, the government okayed the passing of laws for physician-assisted suicide, where someone had the great idea that death would be a profitable business model as they created a place that people could walk into with no reservations and commit suicide with the help from highly trained medical assistants. It was genius.

The Bridges provided a place where you could take control of your own fate, which also turned into a beacon of hope for many of the lost souls in this fucked up city. The Bridge building towered all other the buildings in the city, which was meant to be as people saw it as a signal of hope and tranquility. People lost faith in themselves, their government and they even lost faith in their religion, which their faith was reborn with the help of the Bridges, people could aspire to become a better than themselves making the country stronger.  

People who were tired of life or they just wanted the pain to stop, finally had the right to take they’re own life. They could take control of their own destiny as they could take their own lives into their hands as it has always been everyone’s right but now it is more socially accepted. There is no more stigma about suicide as it is known and accepted by everyone around the world including all of the religions. Apparently, with a great marketing team along with an endless supply of money and the right connections, you can make any operation look appealing including physician-assisted suicide. Dr. Kevorkian would have been proud to live in this brand new world. The government was happy, businesses were getting rich and people were killing themselves with their own devices. Everyone and everything was supposed to be in their perfect place as this was the status quo, which everyone followed to the T.

People loved the idea that they were in control of their own lives, which everyone liked the fact they had an option to end their own lives in a peaceful way instead the old painful natural way because that way of thinking was the past. This was the future and the Bridges were the future.

Bridges seemingly enough do look like a place where you would you go die on your own terms because from the outside they have the stylish flare of an IRS building. There are cameras everywhere surrounding the building, covering every angle as a security measure. Every Bridge looks the same with their black marble exterior with the Bridge logo always visible and always on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 

“We are the light in the darkness. We give hope to the hopeless as we help you on this treacherous voyage called life, guiding you home.”

The only distinguishing aspect of Bridges are their huge light beam in the center of every building shooting upward to the sky, symbolizing some form of artistic expression of a link from this world to the next. Everyone can see the light beam from miles away from the city because most days it’s usually dark and cloudy making it easier to see the Bridges. It feels like the Sun has given up on us, which it was fine because I always thought it was overrated unlike the light beam from the Bridges because it had a deeper meaning for people.  

It’s like a visual connection to the Gods, an artistic image of a huge lighthouse for the weary traveler looking for direction, which they can get at their local Bridge because it was tailored for the lost and the confused. The light was meant to be a symbol of hope and rescue. Bridges are located everywhere in the world but they’re on every corner of America like McDonald’s or a 7-11, in which, every single day experienced Clearing technicians perform operations for the volunteered departed like clockwork. People line up every single day to get accessed by Clearing agents then they would meet Clearing operators to be safely Cleared by professionals without any distractions or any safe hazardous.

The operation is called Clearing, which the total operation lasts for an hour depending on the client but mostly the operation is really quick like taking your car in for an oil change. First, the subject chooses their last meal sorta like the last meal for a death row intimate but much less dramatic. As the subject eats their last meal they get to choose what song they would like to listen to for the very last time during the operation. They could pick whatever song they wanted whether the song was a long or short, it would just make the client feel comfortable before the operation.

Personally, I would choose the longest song in the world because I would not be relaxed knowing that I was about to die. In any case, after the meal, the subject is first given a high dosage of a muscle relaxer then tubes get inserted into major muscle group including the brain to see your vitals. The subject then gets put into a Cryotherapy Chamber where it goes down to -140 degrees Fahrenheit putting your body in a state of shock but within a couple of minutes, you begin to calm down because you know what’s coming next. The Clearing machine was designed by the top engineers in the country, which the whole thing looked like a science fiction machine that was made by mad scientists.

Then the techs would place these sheer steel plates across your chest and behind your back. Electronic currents would passed through these steel plates thru your body taking your life force away or as Eastern philosophy would say, taking your Chi aka your life. There is a small LCD monitor in front of every departed subject inside every chamber, where they play a video montage of very peaceful scenes of family members reuniting or just people at peace, trying to get you comfortable with your decision as you let go of your old life. The steel plates would slowly suck your energy away with just a simple turn of the knob. Within an hour or less you can easily kill yourself in a painless and efficient manner as that last song you’ll ever hear plays in the background. This is by far the most popular medical procedure in the current state of the medical field even surpassing plastic surgery.

No wonder why there is a long line every single day that stretches around the Bridge buildings, which seemed like people were waiting for free cupcakes or for waiting to get tickets for your favorite musical artists. This was not one of those lines because not everyone in line was excited to receive what they were about to get.

After waiting hours in line you get ushered into a bright but packed medical lobby where the patients look and felt depressed. They all knew that this was the end of the line for most of them. They had enough with life. Living with emotional and physical pain, which all they wanted to do was to end their suffering.

After waiting hours in line you wait in the lobby filling up paperwork to see if you’re eligible to be “Cleared.” The questions aren’t that difficult to answer and don’t really dive into your personality traits. These are just simple questions like how long have you’ve been depressed, have you tried to end it yourself, have you exhausted every option to feel better, etc. Let’s just say it’s much easier than filling up a form for a medical marijuana card. If you still manage to not clear with Bridge agents with the paperwork and there’s a bit of doubt of why you’re actually there, then the next step is seeing a Clearing Agent, a person who is in charge of accessing your reasons of wanting to be Cleared seeing if your reasons where justified to take the operation to take your life away.

This is where I step in, as I would access your “reasons” why you want end your life. You would walk into my very dull, dimly lit, 10×15 grey office with just my fake ficus plant, my brown table and my two chairs. The ceilings were so low that you could literally feel the pressure of the room as life was crushing you. It felt like you were in a big coffin with no exits or escapes. I’m not sure if it was on purpose or not but you felt like you were already dead and you were fine with it.

Once you stepped into my office I already had a good feel for every client who saw me because I’ve done this for so long that I know the personally traits for a worthy person, who genuinely wants to kill themselves in a peaceful manner and also believes that this operation that was created by the Bridges to bring peace and comfort to people.

On my table there are stacks of the future departed paperwork, my laptop and pictures of my of loving but very abusive boyfriend. I know that he loves me but sometimes I don’t live up to his standards and he takes it out on me. Sometimes, I would have to take sick days because he would beat me so bad emotional and physically that I couldn’t walk. But what am I supposed to do; I didn’t have the confidence or the courage to stand up for myself to leave him.

Also, he was the only person in my life with my parents were both dead and I was the only child. I didn’t really have many friends outside of work besides that plant. I didn’t have a life outside of work because this is all I did, which I’m not complaining but I just wish I had more friends that I could talk to about my horrible relationship with my boyfriend maybe for some guidance or just a shoulder to cry on.

Besides the items on my tiny table, my philosophy degree hangs above it just a reminder how much I never use it at all as an accountant because I don’t think about greater ideas because I would never consider myself a philosopher, a poet or even an adventurer. I was a paper-pusher but goddamn it I was good it! Although, all those hours reading and learning about all those great philosophers telling me to go out to see the world and experience everything you can because life is short made me feel sad because I wasn’t doing what they were trying to teach me because I was stuck in my office, stuck in the hell I created. Watching wet paint was much more exciting than living my own life.

I’m quiet boring with my dull brown hair and thick birth control glasses. People in the office called them BCs because they are my own form of birth control because they are so ugly and thick, no man would want to sleep with me with the exception of my boyfriend, everyone was right to think I was a loser. The most exciting thing about me, which is not very exciting at all, is that I’m good at numbers. I love equations, puzzles and problem solving, which by now I’m probably making you fall asleep. I couldn’t help it I loved math, which probably saved me in school, where I met George during the time we actually loved each other and not trying to kill each other. It was a different time back then with George and I.

Maybe, this is the reason why I’m so good at my job. I don’t see past the present because I don’t see the future. I’m so focused on my job because I felt like I’m doing something important or at least I think I am. I fed into the Bridge philosophy that we were saving people’s lives by killing people, who wanted to die. We were saving humanity making society a lot stronger by keeping the people, who want to stay on this Earth to make something out of their lives and help out other people, who want to strive for greatness. Counselor Hart, who is my boss, shares the Bridge philosophy and the philosophy that you can change yourself into the person you want to be but you have to be relentless about finishing and attaining your goals.

Counselor Hart consistently tells me, “Know thyself. Know who you are because you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. Once you know your weaknesses you can transform and change your weakness into strength,” which everything she says makes sense because she was a smart woman who I looked up to because she was my mentor. I wanted to become Counselor Hart because she was so confident and so strong as a leader for us, which I’ve never seen a woman so strong in a business dominated by men.

Next to my useless philosophy degree is one of those annoying motivational pictures of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly with a lame caption of,

“You can change too.”

I wondered if the person who had to make all these horrible pictures and slogans had a worse life than I did. Then I realized I killed people for a living.

This is my life. 

If this doesn’t make you want to kill yourself, the view from my office into a cold, dark dead-end of an alleyway drives the point home. Once again, I’m not sure if that was on purpose but it delivers a powerful message to the confused, making them chose the right decision we want. I have to close them making them sign on the dotted line because I have a quota to meet every week, which I always make because I may not be good in a lot of things but I know that I’m really good at my job.

“Hi, there my name is Alessandra Sands. I’ll be your Clearing Agent today handling your case. Now, Mrs. June-“

“It’s Miss June, my husband passed away a month ago.” June was a 40ish substitute math teacher, which she looked like life steamed rolled over her about a dozen times before she walked into my office with bags over her eyes and wrinkled clothes. It looked like she was ready to throw in the towel. She was like every person, who stepped into those long lines everyday for the Bridges. They wanted a way out to get out of their horrible lives, which the Bridges gave them an opportunity to do it a humane and safe way.

“I see. I mean I saw it in your records. I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you. Unfortunately, he was in a hurry and couldn’t wait for me, so he decided just to jump of the roof of a tall building,” telling me as she sarcastically laughs it off. “He did it such a rush that he didn’t even leave a suicide note or anything. He just left the house like he did every single day, saying goodbye to the kids kissing me before going to work but instead of going to work, he decided to find the tallest building he could to commit suicide. But that was Dan, he was the type of man who if he had an idea stuck in his head, he was going to go through with it even it meant falling off forty story building landing on a suicide help hotline before dying slowly in the ER room in the hospital. Pretty ironic isn’t it.”

“Do you think death is a joke Miss June. It’s a very serious thing, which in this facility we take it very seriously because it’s our business take care of people’s lives. It’s the end of the line for most people, who enter the Bridges, which there are hundreds and hundreds of people across America waiting in line just wanting to end they’re suffering and we can help.”

“I’m sorry. I’m just so confused. I mean I can’t go on living without my husband because he was my soul mate and life is too hard. But I’m not sure if taking my own life is the right call because I have two little children at home. I don’t want to leave them all by themselves because I don’t have any relatives to watch over them to take care of them, which would be my biggest regret if I decide to carry on with the procedure.”

“Well, this is why I’m here Miss June to help you with your decision. If you decide to “Clear” yourself all that suffering you’ve been carrying around will be gone and you’ll be doing your kids a favor because you don’t want your kids growing up with a depressed mother with suicidal tendencies. Plus, with our insurance policy it would cover them all the way past their college education. Not to mention you’re getting up there with age, how much longer do you think you got left before father time decides to take back time from you. Also, your kids would be place in great foster homes that we have an an exceptional program of putting the kids of the departed into great homes with amazing families.”

I’ve been doing this for so long, I’ve become so good at reading people. I know if a person is going to say no or yes. If a person is still confused or if a person is still on the ropes with their decision, then I would close on them like a shady car salesman with a lemon car for sale.

“I’m still not sure Miss Sands?” June looks at bracelet that her daughter made for her with her name on it playing with it trying to think about the choices that was placed in front of her.

“Tell you what June. Do me a favor, stand up and look out that window.” June slowly gets up with her wrinkled clothes walking towards the window looking out at the cold dark dead-end of an alleyway. “What do you see?”

“Nothing. I see nothing.” 

“Exactly. But you still have a chance to change it June. You can make it into something and take charge of your life and provide a better future for your family.” 

Like a patient black widow spider I start to notice you finally give up on the fight and I move into the kill with our company motto:

“We are the light in the darkness. We give hope to the hopeless as we help you on this treacherous voyage called life, guiding you home. Let us help you.”

Counselor Hart would have been proud of me.

And that’s that. The person usually signs on the dotted line and they get Cleared in a couple of hours after they wait in line with the rest of the soon to be departed. It’s that quick and easy, no wonder it’s popular all over the world. 

It’s been so popular that the government adopted it as a new form of population control. With the exploding human population well over fifteen billion people, there were not enough resources to go around. So, with this new medical system of taking your own life was a good and effect way to control over crowding and a good way for population control. It’s been embraced in the United States and several other countries have followed our lead. It’s good for the economy and great for our survival as human beings or at least that’s what the government believes.

Even though are many advances in the medical profession in this era, people still want to end their suffering by their own hands. The government is more than willing to help out the people, who want to be Cleared, in which they can also provide incentives if you end your life early. If you’re the volunteered departed, the government has extensive insurance policies that will take care of all of your medical costs and will take care of the future of your family. 

They wrote new rules and regulations for people, who can end their own lives. If you want to end your own life you must come in and do so at a professional Bridge facility. If you decide to take your own life yourself without the help of the government then you will not receive any of the benefits or incentives. The government formed a reward program for the people, who could inform the government of a person or persons who are depressed or suicidal then government would snatch them up and bring them back to the Bridge to help them. The Horsemen are the group in charge of taking people and security for Bridges.

In this new world order, the Horsemen enforce the rules and regulations of the government and the Bridges when it comes to keeping order in the city. Everyone knows about them because they are not a secret group of the government, which is a made out of a mixer of different parts of the military’s special forces.

Needless to say they are men not to be fuck with. 

The Horsemen do all the dirty work for the company and they do it well. Always with their tailored black suits with matching hats looking like ad execs back in the 60s but they weren’t trying to tell sell you something, they were trying to take it away from you by any means necessary. Unfortunately, they have to do it the old fashion way with their hands because guns are outlawed with the rewriting of the amendments. All firearms are forbidden and have been destroyed by the government. If you were caught with a firearm then it would be immediate grounds for a Clearing without the benefits. The government thought it was a good idea to get rid of all the guns because people were committing suicide with their own devices instead of going to Bridges, which the government couldn’t make any money from it from the departed. It’s always about money with the government and it wasn’t different with this new medical innovation.

Of course, traditions die-hard, which you can still carry old fashion ways to kill someone like a knife, a sword, a hammer, anything but a firearm. Murder was still illegal, which you could be still thrown into jail but it was much worst if you tried to help someone to commit suicide without the authorization of a professional Clearing agent from a Bridge facility. Each one of the Horsemen carries a black katana sword on them and they use it with great effectiveness. They are the nails in this new world, which the hammer would be the Counselors of the Bridges. They are in charge of the Horsemen and had the task of overseeing the total operation of the Bridges. There are five regional branches of Bridges across America, which means there are five Counselors, who are solely responsible for that region. They control the Bridges, which they also council the city government on the rules and regulations for people to follow. Some people say Counselors are more powerful than corporations and have more influence than most politicians because they have more people in their pocket in both houses of Congress. 

Counselor Hart is in charge of the west coast region, which she happens to be my boss. She’s your typical 9 to 5 corporate executive, type A personality, always with her grey power suit and her boring black bob on her huge head with her slender figure. She came from a rich Ivy school somewhere in the east coast, which she was exactly who you wanted to be in charge of a huge corporation. She was the opposite of her name because she was calculating and cold heartened bitch. She didn’t accept failure to kindly but what she hated the most was weakness. She thought of it as a disease, which should be amputated out of civilization because failure is never an option to her. In her mind there is no room for weakness in this brand new world. I was totally scared of her because she was so intense.

Counselor Hart believes in the Bridge philosophy that it can help people and make our society stronger by eliminating the weakest link of the chain. She might have seemed to be a cold-hearted bitch but she was good at her job. She was dedicated to it, which this was all she did for the most part of the day. She lived the West Regional Bridge building, which she would rarely leave because she had many duties to perform. She would get up every morning put on that dull suit, comb that ugly bob and check out the daily operations of the Bridges including Clearings.

“Miss Sands. You’ve done quite well this month.” The Counselor looks at her black book that she always carries with her and never leaves her side. “You’ve succeed our goals this month with all those Clearings.”

“Thank you ma’am.”

“But I have higher expectations for you. Sooner or later you’ll take over of my job with the right direction and hard work, you’ll be that steady rock we need at this corporation. You’ll be the strongest link in this life chain.” Assuring me with her fake smile behind those emotional less green snake eyes.

“Thank you, ma’am.”

I didn’t want to become her. She seemed trap. But then again I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do in my life.

“But I do need you to come into work this weekend to do accounting for the new Mega Bridge that we are building. We all have to make small sacrifices in order to achieve greatness. You do want to become the best version of yourself right?”

“Well, I sorta had plans for this weekend with my boyfriend.” As she gives me the disappointed look, I start to imagine my boyfriend beating me down when I tell him I can’t make it this weekend because I have to work, then realized she was not the person to disappoint in this equation. Last week I was walking back to my office as I saw my co-worker on her knees crying uncontrollably at the feet of Counselor Hart, which she just stood over her with no expression on her face. All because my co-worker wanted to leave a little early, which I couldn’t even imagine what the Counselor would do if you actually did mess up bad.  “But I guess I can change it.”

“Awesome. You know what I always say, family is temporary but death is forever. I have a lot of faith in you because you are one of the best employees in this company and with the right counseling, you will quickly rise in this company. ” 

She gives me the usual pat in the back and shoves me back in the direction towards my office.

So, day and day out I fill up paperwork in my tiny coffin like office, recruiting new souls for Hades to ferry across the fiery lake. Rolling this bolder back and forth. My useless degree, my un-motivating butterfly picture and my fake ficus plant along with my office view of my future. Thinking about my abusive boyfriend along with being afraid of my horrible boss. This job is the only thing going for me in my life and it’s slowly killing me. Ask me who I am, and I’ll tell you the truth.

I am Alessandra Sands. I kill people. 

To be continued…

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