“That’s it,” the consultant said, pushing her chair over to her desk as I sat up in my new body.
I swung my legs off of the bed and flexed my fingers. They felt the same. Looked the same too, far as I could tell. My new eyes were still getting used to the light.
“I didn’t expect it to be so quick.”
“It can seem that way,” she rolled back over, holding a small torch. “We don’t engage your consciousness until you’re fully formed. We used to wake you a lot sooner, but it caused too many misprints. Look up.”
She flashed the torch in my eyes.
“People panicked, flailed around and messed up the print. Lots of mental trauma. Had to reprint the first few thousand.”
She turned the torch off and dropped it into her pocket.
“OK, looking good. Computer shows no major artefacts, module’s nicely integrated. Looks like an excellent print. Any discomfort anywhere? Headache?”
“Uh. No. No headache. Bit Disoriented.”
“That’s normal, just the synapses warming up. The module should power up overnight. Give us a call if you experience any pain or queasiness.”
I nodded and stood up.
“Just one thing before you go.”
She pulled open a blind to reveal a white walled room behind a thick sheet of glass. Someone was in there: up against the window.
I felt my new heart jump into my throat.
It was my body. My old body. Only it was still alive, still conscious: peering through at us.
“I don’t understand. Shouldn’t it be dead? I thought you transferred me into this body.”
“Transferred? No. We take a scan of your old body, then print you with the requested augmentations. It’s all in our booklet.”
It was knocking on the window. It looked confused.
“So, that’s me. The real me. I mean, I never left the scanner.”
“Of course you did. Here you are!”
“But… we can’t both be me.”
The consultant gestured to a button on the wall. “Hit that and you’ll be the only one. Fills the room with nerve-gas. Very quick.”
“What? I can’t! I mean it’s… me.”
“Who’s you? You remember signing the policy. You’re here now. Who else are you, but you?”
“…can’t you do it?”
She shook her head. “Company Policy. If I do it, it’s murder. You do it, it’s just self-improvement.”
My old body had realised what was going on. It started yelling, throwing itself against the window: fists and knees bouncing off the reinforced glass.
Could I really do this?
“You didn’t read the fine print.” The consultant shrugged. “That’s not your problem now.”
My body was begging. I couldn’t hear what it was saying, but I could tell it was begging. Pleading for its life. Pleading for my life.
“He made his choice. As you said, you can’t both be you.”
I felt like the real me. But how would I know? I looked my old body in the eye.
What would he do?
Chris Ovenden asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work
Caught another piece by Ovenden on everyday fiction recently, called Peace For Our Times, which made me track down some of his other online publications. This is an entertaining and thoughtful story which, despite its short length, carries a fully realised character arc with an engaging conclusion. I’d consider myself a fan on the basis of what I’ve read so far.