Story inspired by the following prompt: People lose the ability to deny requests. They must either a) fulfill them or b) ask someone else to do it. There are volunteers who take bad requests in exchange for compensation or exemption from law. Write about the life of a volunteer.

“We’ve got a code red. I repeat, a code red.”

The voice screeched over the intercom at the Solicitation Station, sirens sounding and flashing lights bathing the Volunteers in red. With urgency we strapped on our boots, fireproof trousers, helmets, utility belts, and communication gear, before sliding down the pole onto the first floor. I jumped into the passenger seat of the truck, while Milo took the driver seat, the engine roaring as we exited the garage.

“Location?” shouted Milo, as I was relayed information across the radio.

“Twelth street, number 455. Apartment six on the bottom floor. There isn’t much time, antipated two minutes and thirty seconds until disaster.”

“Damn!” Shouted Milo, and the truck lurched faster, weaving through traffic that had stopped to allow us to pass.

I’d only been a Volunteer for three weeks, and this was my fifth run. I feared it might be my last- but that’s what we Volunteers do. We risk our lives to save others.

By the time we turned on twelveth street, we could hear the screams. Tires screeched as Milo threw the truck into park, and we raced across the small lawn to the door, throwing it open.

There was a family in the kitchen- a father, a mother, and a small girl. The girl was the source of the screaming, her face red, her eyes wide with terror. Tears rolled down the mother’s face as she pleaded with the father, his own face filled with panic as his hand held a large kitchen knife to his throat. His muscles bulged to draw it closer, while the mother tried to pull it away- a tug of war that brought the blade closer and closer to his arteries.

“Report says that the girl, Mary, said she wished her father was dead after being told to eat the greens on her plate,” The radio had told me on our way over, “Currently the father is restrained, but not for long.”

“Help,” Gasped the father from the kitchen, his cry mimicked by the mother as she saw us. As we rushed over, I saw my reflection in a mirror in the hallway.

I was bald, the smooth top of my head replacing where there had once been thick hair. My skin was pale, far paler than I could remember, though recently I had done my best not to check. My face was skinnier, more gaunt, more stressed, the bones showing through the cheek.

And though I couldn’t see it, my eyes drifted to my left shoulder, where a growth had been removed just two months before. A cancerous tumor, one that the doctors said had spread throughout my body. One that gave me two months to live, at best.

I remember the doctor handing me the application to become a Volunteer, stating it was the most noble way to spend my remaining time on earth. And I felt a small smile tug at my lips when I looked at the father, and his knife.

I knew what I had to do.

To give my life, so others may live.


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