Prologue

The dotted line is a devilish place to sign your name. That handful of letters, haphazardly patched together into a signature, defines a man. His worth is sealed up in those lines. Those letters tell everyone who he is and who he's been. An unblemished name is virtually priceless, while a name polluted by vice is disdained. Our society quickly brandishes that name as unusable. It becomes forbidden. A man's name, it's all he has.

Maybe that's why contracts are as frightening to mankind as frigid death. Take whatever you want, but don't bind me in your indecipherable agreement! When I sign my name it means I'm placing everything I'm worth at the mercy of another. That is a chilling proposition, for some. This isn't hard for me to do though. I'm not worth much.

Take a close look. It may not be evident anymore. They've done a great job cleaning me up. I'm certain they've scrubbed a thousand sob stories off these sterile white walls. After they finish fixing me up they'll probably clean mine away too. I've been promised a leg. They're going to give me two new fingers as well. All I had to do was sign on the dotted line; that's it.

"You're prepped for surgery," A nurse gently remarked, "We're going to wheel you back to the operating room and you'll be up and walking in no time." She smiled calmly, "Are you nervous?"

"I'm never nervous ma'am." I responded teasingly.

"A veteran like yourself doesn't scare too easy, huh?" Her smile was coy and her laugh was genuine. It's a shame I wouldn't be around long enough to get to know her better. She seemed delightful. "I'll let the doctor's know you're ready."

I smiled. My name was all I had to surrender. Everything I've been dreaming of since the war ended was coming to fruition. Finally, I'll be worth something again. No more sleeping on sidewalks or huddling under tattered blankets in the dead of winter. After my time here, I can return to normal life.

As they roll me into the operating room I'm not certain how to feel. The lights are surprisingly bright. The team of doctors and nurses are fluidly moving about the room. I can tell that the monitors are already hooked up. They're ready. I'm ready. I'm on my way to a new life, and all I had to do was sign on the dotted line.