A man finds new joy in life through bionics. For a little while, at least.
Tonight we have a story about a man and his bionic frustrations. But first, a word from our sponsor.
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Outer Body Experience by Doctor Brandon Winter
“I assure you, Mr. Larsson,” the salesman said as he straightened his papers, “the transfer is entirely painless. But I should mention that once you’re body-dead, there’s no refund.”
Larsson shifted on the other side of the desk. His soft face twisted in contemplation and his cheeks flushed.
“And what will you do with my body after I…”
He trailed off and clicked his fingernails. The salesman smiled—they always talked around this part.
“Our custom-built marionettes will give you the full range of motion and experience as an organic body, but without the worry of time or disease. Combine that with the Gibson Process’s knowledge wash, and you’ll not only be a new man, but a better one.”
Larsson rubbed his chin and his watery eyes grew distant. Then he nodded and reached into his pocket.
“Make it out to Monty Industries,” the salesman said. “We accept all forms of payment. For your convenience.”
Larsson knew they would pass his mind though a biokinetic router and graft it onto a personality algorithm, but they never told him it was beautiful. His consciousness soared over an electric savannah, where rivers of data ran over the edges of quantum shunts and collected in server oases. He descended through tall clouds of code and dove into the pools and drank them up until he rolled over like a whale and baked in the heat of a phosphorous sun and drifted off to sleep. Fractals bloomed in his untethered dreams like fields of flowers that stretched to an infinite horizon illuminated by permanent dawn.
He awoke at night on the street in the light of a neon sign. He didn’t know where he was, but he knew the ambient air temperature was 10 degrees Celsius, with a relative humidity of 25%, and that the man to his left had a resting heart rate of 75 beats per minute. Larsson was facing east-northeast at an elevation of 317 feet above sea level and it was 8:07pm. He ran a hand over his face and felt sharp cheeks and a square chin, then looked down at his body and saw a flat stomach, broad chest, and long, thin legs.
“Holy shit, they did it.”
His stomach growled and he rubbed it through his shirt. It had been a long day.
“I’m starving. Time for a drink.”
He seated himself in a corner booth with a view of the street and watched the people walk by. A woman leaned onto a man’s arm and laughed into his ear.
“Chance of romantic encounter ending in coitus, 87 percent.”
A man, hunched against a sudden rainstorm, coughed into his hand.
“Diagnosis, congestive heart failure.”
Another man stood on the corner and raised his hand for a taxi. His soft face was pale under the streetlamps and he clicked his fingernails nervously as he waited, looking back and forth down the street. Larsson paused for a moment and watched the man as the nightlife moved around him—he was a bland stone in a roaring cataract of activity, invisible to the world, and to Larsson’s knowledge stream.
“No data,” Larsson said, as the man climbed into the back of a taxi and settled against the window to watch the world with his watery eyes. “Poor bastard.”
The waiter came and dropped off a glass. Bourbon, old and expensive. Too expensive, but this was a special day; he could afford it this once. Larsson rolled it around the glass and watched thick legs of alcohol lace themselves down the side. A couple sat at a neighboring table, and he raised his drink in salute. They waved and Larsson smiled at them. If their capillary dilation was any indication, the date was going well. He chuckled to himself—he’d have to try love in this new body—and took a sip.
45% alcohol by volume, 52% corn mash, matured for 25 years in oak casks in a warehouse with an average temperature of 16.9 degrees Celsius. Retail price: 89 dollars. This was a very special night. The woman at the next table leaned over.
“Excuse me, but is that the reserve?”
Larsson nodded and took another sip. American Oak casks from Upstate New York, harvested at age 60. The woman slid over slightly.
“May I ask how it is?”
Larsson looked at her and he felt his jaw slacken.
The woman smiled.
“How does it taste?”
Larsson took another sip: 64.2 kilocalories and 9.3 grams of alcohol per serving. 0 grams of sugar. Sweat beaded under Larsson’s collar and his ears pulsed with a wet drumbeat. The room stretched and light from the street cut his eyes like a knife.
The woman twisted her face and looked at her date, then back at Larsson.
“I think I’ll get something else. Thanks, though.”
Larsson raised his glass again in salute and slumped into his booth.
The couple ate for hours while Larsson stared at his drink. They slurped briny oysters and sliced thick steaks; they held wine on their tongues and looked at each other with sunrise-eyes as they swallowed it, and when desert came, they moaned in anticipation as the waiter set it down, and they sighed with satisfaction as they ate the last bites and dropped their spoons.
As they left, the woman looked over at Larsson. He sat hunched in his seat, chin on the table like a dog and his face dark in the long shadow off the glass.
“You didn’t like it?”
Her voice was searching and low with concern. Larsson looked up at her and shrugged.
“I don’t really…I don’t really partake.”
The woman cocked her head onto her shoulder and pursed her lips.
“That’s a shame. You don’t know what you’re missing.”
It was a very expensive night.