There’s no such thing as a free life or an easy death….
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be” ~ Lao Tzu, 6 B.C
Heat. Harold Cranston remembered the heat. He had been lying on the table awaiting the procedure, drugged up but not unconscious. The heat hit him first, tearing at his skin as though it needed to be excised from him. Wu, the technician, oblivious to the expression on Harold’s face, had warned him he would feel something uncomfortable, but the words paled to the experience.
“Relax and try to endure,” Wu said, fiddling the dials nervously as though they might be interrupted. That would be the least of Harold’s problems.
“It’s burning,” he said, feebly. Jesus, at ninety-two there wasn’t much he could do anymore. The last decade had been spent on a variety of drug cocktails, mind-numbing pain medication, anti-nausea pills, acupuncture and other holistic treatments to fight the cancer therapy. He had watched himself shrivel up, finally winding up able to function clearly for less than a half- hour each day, and even that only with the help of the benzodiazepines and hydrocodone he frequently abused.
The heat increased and he moaned awaiting the death he knew was coming. He was certain he could smell the skin burning off his body. The air permeated with the sound of electricity coupled with that malodorous thought, and even though he tried moving – something Wu had expressly told him not to do – he found he was unable to even twitch.
“Wu, you bastard,” he tried to say, but the words wouldn’t come out. And then blackness dropped around him and he was gone.
“Wake up,” Wu said to him, his voice booming as though he had been yelling. That wasn’t it; Harold could hear clearly now. He opened his eyes slowly, repelling the blinding light, and drew in a deep breath. The overhead light was blinking for some reason. The smell of flesh and the sound of the electricity had gone. Instead he could breathe uninterrupted, free of pain – he hadn’t been able to do that for the last five years. He took in another deep breath and held it before exhaling.
“Amazing,” he said. “Simply amazing.”
Wu leaned over him, looked at the scanners attached to make sure all was as it should be, before removing the lead wires and helping Harold up. He was unsteady, but not in the way he had come into the facility this morning; pushed in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank by his side. Instead, his legs now felt heavy, muscular, not the atrophied pencils he had just left behind. They felt like his legs used to feel when he was far younger and able to sprint the track at school.
That was how he had met Helen – his wife now ten years dead. She had been doing homework on the track benches as he rushed past, his traditional whooshing exhale sounding like a steam locomotive. He had spotted her first before she finally looked up and their eyes met. She had smiled at him.
Already this new body felt amazing; the changes in his DNA that he had requested had obviously been completed, and he felt his heart quicken at the thought of seeing the rest of the handiwork in front of a mirror.
The new body was under thirty years old, grown just for Harold per his specifications, and he had waited until it was stable enough for the transference to take place; placing his thoughts and memories into the vacant brain of the new body, all the things that made him who he was. Was that the essence of a man, he wondered?
Despite the fact that the technology that permitted swapping out a body was less than a decade old, it had become the rage for anyone with enough money. To hell with the facelifts and the skin tightening; once you could grow a new body from your own DNA, and modify it to your desires, the sky was the limit. You could no longer tell who was young and who was old except by conversation; the real young ones had no experience from which to draw, and their idioms were foreign to anyone over the age of thirty.
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