"It's time," said Harrison. He stood over his mother's bed as her breath grew more laborious.
"No..." she wheezed.
"It's the law."
Harrison stood by the window of his mother's cell which was on the basement level. He looked up at the rapid feet of the passersby, all dressed in their brown uniforms. His mother eased herself up, coughed, then swung her feet over the side of the bed. She paused to gain her breath, then put on the brown jacket that was laid out for her on the foot of the bed.
"It wasn't always this way," she said.
"Yes I know," he said with irritation. "You've said that often. You need to watch that you don't say that sort of thing in public."
"I don't think it will matter soon."
"You could still endanger me, if you talk that way on the way over to the processing center."
His mother held up a hand then pressed it to her lips.
"Heaven forbid I should do anything to alert the authorities to you--"
"Shhh!" Harrison whipped around and glared at his mother.
"They can't hear us in here," she whispered, then coughed some more.
He moved towards her and touched her cheek gently with the back of his hand. She brushed it away.
"That doesn't work on me," she said.
"I know," said Harrison. He let his hand drop lankly.
"You may be the last." His mother picked up the brown slacks from the end of the bed and put a shaky foot through one leg. "I saved you from the inoculation, but had to give up my own ability to love. It was a sacrifice, but not a hard one in the end. But remember that it was."
"I think you still love me," said Harrison under his breath. He looked warily at the door.
"I have a memory of it, but nothing more." She put the other foot in the slacks and began to inch them up.
Harrison looked at her coldly, then up at the window. He turned suddenly and lurched for the door, throwing it open. There was no one standing guard on the other side, and he stood there a moment, his lungs filling his chest with uncertainty.
"Harrison?" asked his mother, turning to look.
He glanced back furtively, then ran into the hallway.
"Harrison!" screamed his mother.
He ran up to the stairs, past slumped children staring into space, and into the main hall of the residency building. Ahead of him were the main doors glowing with rectangles of sunlight. He pushed through them, and on the street he fell into the march of the passersby. He shoved the man in front of him, who turned back with a look of consternation. Harrison arched an eyebrow in return. The man turned forward again. Harrison punched him in the back of the shoulder.
"I'll report you!" yelled the man in front.
Harrison tugged at the man's clothes, pulling him out of the line of passersby and shoved him up against a burnt tree stump that was set into the sidewalk pavement.
"What are you doing?" asked the man. "I'll be late for work!"
"What do you feel, huh? What do you feel! Tell me!"
The man stared back at him, confused and shocked and afraid.
"Be careful what you say!" said the man.
Harrison punched him in the face. The man screamed and held his nose.
"I'll say what I want to say! I'm free!"
The man looked to the other people in the street, but they only looked back with surreptitious glances. Harrison shoved the man to the ground.
"But you know what?" asked Harrison. "I can feel love. I can feel love." He started to cry and leaned against the tree for a moment. Then he ran into the street, between the streaming vehicles. They stopped and waited for him to pass.
"I can feel love!" he screamed. "And none of you can! No one else!" He dropped to his knees. "None of you can love me back." He fell back onto the asphalt, his knees up and his hands outstretched.
A minute later he saw a pair of upside-down legs approaching, clad in shiny black. They led up to the dark blue uniform and shiny black helmet of a police officer.
"Please get up off the pavement sir."
"You are under arrest for resisting inoculation."
"You will be assigned to a judge to determine if you are fit for inoculation and reintroduction or whether you should be incinerated."
"That's not my choice." The police officer pulled Harrison up by his shoulders and handcuffed him.
"Don't forget that love existed," whispered Harrison.
"I'll forget you said that sir, otherwise I'd have to add a charge of sedition."
"It did, and it was wonderful and awful."
"I wouldn't know anything about that."
The police officer pressed an injector to the inside of Harrison's elbow and Harrison relaxed within seconds. The officer walked him slowly back to the police car on the outskirts of the little traffic jam. As they passed the residency building, he saw his mother standing on the sidewalk, leaning with two hands against the brick, watching. She shook her head as he passed.