Here you will find samples of my short fiction.
Please do not use without permission. If you are interested in featuring any of my work on your website or in a publication please contact me at LoridiansLaboratory@gmail.com
A piece of flash fiction and lyrical poetry in the style of Edgar Allen Poe
Simulacra (Flash Fiction)
When it’s discovered that the world is nothing but a simulation, one brave man will dare to water his tomatoes
Who thought it was a good idea to mix nano technology, roaches, and radiation???? Told through a series of discovered emails…
by Michael Kilman
Email dated April 19th, 2037 09:37 am
I apologize for not getting back to you sooner but I’ve been swamped at the office with a rash of new missing persons’ cases. It seems that similar circumstances surrounding your husband’s disappearance are beginning to turn up all around the city. As I said before, if I have any new leads on your husband I will let you know as soon as possible.
I appreciate your patience and your cooperation
Email dated April 23rd, 2037 13:15 pm
You said that if I found anything that might help in the investigation to forward it on to you. I asked my brother Scott to come over and help me get into Darrell’s emails and he figured out the password.
What we found is really strange. We don’t know quite what to make of it. Funny thing is, we only have the sent emails. It’s like someone deleted all the stuff out of the inbox but forget the sent folder.
I tried to call you several times today but for a while, all the lines were busy and then they just went dead. Are you having phone problems over there? As you know the drive is pretty far, so here’s what I found.
Date April 3rd, 2037 21:23 pm
The experiment tomorrow is proceeding as planned. We traced the hackers back to a Chinese lab and planted a little virus of our own. There should be no further interruptions. I understand your concerns about using this email but it is well encrypted. Without my password, it is impossible to access this email. The Roaches are ready to rumble.
Date: April 6th, 2037 17:17 pm
The experiment was a remarkable success. The roaches’ bodies no long need a transplant; we have completely rewired their DNA with the AI so that the Nanobots grow into the exoskeleton from right from birth. They’re like mini armadillos. Some of them are even starting to run around in little packs, like wolves. It’s fascinating I could watch them for hours.
Also, their nanite armor is incredible. Paul Watson tried to kill one of them with a hammer, and though he succeeded, it took him almost a dozen swings before it died. There may be a military application in addition to our original goals. But don’t quote me on that in one of your reports.
But what’s truly unbelievable is that the carbon they extract out of the atmosphere is eighteen times higher than our original estimates. And today Singh Haig had a brilliant thought. We experimented with allowing them to consume radioactive medical waste. Thus far the results are promising. With your permission, we would like to try to use spent fuel rods from the nearby power plant.
The raw data is on its way through the usual channels. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Date: April 7th 2037 18:51pm
I understand your concern with the breeding rates and it is noted. We aren’t sure why their multiplying so fast but we are going to try and use that to our advantage. I mean there is a lot of carbon in the atmosphere and even with several millions of these things, it will take years to undo the damage that’s been done. Besides Paul is having a lot of fun with testing out armor strength on the various specimens with that hammer. I swear all he does is swing that thing around now. Population control I guess?
I would also like to note that some of the roaches have taken on an interesting green glow. Some images and videos are attached to this email.
Date: April 9th 2037 13:11pm
I am sorry to report that Paul Watson has disappeared. We searched around the complex and all we found was that damn hammer. The crazy thing is, it had a little dried blood on it. Paul must have whacked himself on accident at some point.
But with his disappearance, we now suspect that he was the mole for the Chinese. We have tightened our security around here but for now, we will continue the tests. I will say that the population is approaching a critical limit. They are definitely breeding faster than we anticipated. At this rate, we will have to call in an exterminator. Just kidding! But we are going to have to thin the numbers a bit and there are too many now to use a hammer.
Date: April 11th 2037 17:01pm
I don’t know what to say. Mike Brokes, Singh Haig and Vanessa Martinez have all gone missing. Their family hasn’t heard from them either. The leaves only myself and Amy Johnson.
There’s been another troubling development. We gassed 3 of the 8 of the enclosures with the Roaches to thin out the numbers and well, when we came in this morning, a fourth enclosure was empty. I mean, it’s as if the damn things just vanished. We have put the whole lab on lockdown. Amy said she heard some strange noises in the ducts. So I went up there to check it out, and I thought I saw something glowing, but I think it was only my mind playing tricks on me.
Date: April 12th 2037 03:12am
General, oh god. They got Amy. I saw them. The ones that escaped, there are tens of thousands of them now. When then moved, it was like they were one body. They picked her up and took her right in front of me. I chased them. I tried to stop them, but I was only able to kill a few them. That armor. They’re so fast and General, some of them are growing. I saw one the size of a cat.
I don’t know where they went. They just seemed to vanish around a corner. And then I heard her screaming. They must have taken her underground or something.
I’m the only one left here. I’ve locked myself in a sealed enclosure, nothing should be able to get in or out. But Jesus General, it was the gas. This all started when we gassed those three enclosures. I wonder if Paul… but never mind that now.
I know this is going to sound crazy but I think they want revenge. Or maybe this was the Chinese, or the AI or the radiation, I don’t know but I do know I can’t stop them. I’m trapped.
Oh no. Their crawling all over the window trying to get in. Oh god, the window is cracking. I don’t think I have much time.
General, we can’t let these things get out. Do whatever you have to do to stop them. Even Protocol 7JF if you have to.
Tell my wife I love her.
End Forwarded Messages
You see why I don’t know what to think of all this? I mean I thought maybe this was some sort of piece of fiction my husband wrote. He does like writing his crazy stories. You should have read the one who wrote about the zombie ferrets. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever read.
But Detective, do you think there is any connection between this all the missing people in town?
I hope this helps Detective, I really do. I’ll try calling again tomorrow. I’m terribly worried about my husband.
In space nothing is every quite what you think it is. Told through a series of old data transmissions from four light years away… something terrible happened to two astronauts… but it’s stranger than they ever expected.
by Michael Kilman
Data Transmission begins:
July 26th, 2079 8:37 pm
Packet Received via Titan Communications grid on July 29th, 2083 11:58 pm
It’s Dark. Gods I wish it wasn’t. The pain in my ankles is incredible. I want to scream. I did for a while. But now, it doesn’t do me a damn bit of good. I guess, for the record, and for Mary, I should tell you what happened. I know it’ll be years before anyone sees this transmission. By then, I’ll be long dead.
The initial probes were right. We finally found life on another planet. Turns out Alpha Centauri Bb is teaming with it. Good news considering how hot the earth is right? God, it hurts. I.. I think it’s eating me. Fuck, whatever it’s doing it’s not good. Uggh.
Bukowski and I landed on this planet. Our initial scans from orbit indicated that life was highly likely in this region, but we had no idea. Urrghh. Sorry, I think one of its tentacle things just crawled up inside my shin. Oh Gods. What’s happening to me?
…we came down with our shuttle, and when that door opened, you’d swear we were in the fucking Amazon. We got out and started looking around. Set up a base camp and started deploying the automated biosphere. Things were looking good. In a few months, we would have been ready to settle in and wait for the colonists.
We started sending data back to the Lincoln. You know the usual shit. Air, temperature, weather patterns, soil samples and of course plenty of organic samples. Spent half a day cataloging new species. The AI started transmitting back to earth almost immediately, so I think you will get some of those data packets before you see this footage.
The air here is breathable. Which, for me, is unfortunate, cause if it wasn’t, when this plant thing punctured my suit, I would have died and that would have been the end of it. Bukowski was lucky. His death was quick.
We were getting ready to link up with the Lincoln and broadcast our first update since orbit when some big gray thing with four arms came stomping out of the woods. It headed right for our camp. It looked pissed and the noises that came out of it, well, if I somehow survive this, I’m gonna have nightmares the rest of my life.
The thing was enormous, and Charlie, I know you’re probably watching this, you win the bet. It was bipedal. We thought maybe it was intelligent cause it figured out pretty quick how to get inside the shuttle and it tore out some of the controls. All we could do was watch. Damn thing was huge, we hoped it would just leave. After it finished with the shuttle, it tried to smash the biosphere but that shit is built to handle a nuke.
Then it turned towards us and started to charge. I shot at it, with the .45 Mary gave me.
Yeah, I know Ralston, we weren’t supposed to have weapons, but when your wife wants you packing, and you’re telling her your gonna be gone for years, you don’t tell her no. Believe me, when I say, we hoped it would just leave, but when it charged…
Anyway, I shot the fucking thing right in what I think was its head. Hard to tell cause it had eyes in several places on its body and three different mouths. All that seem to do was piss it off. So it came at us, and we ran and…
Fuck. I can feel it’s tentacle thing inside my knee cap. It’s swishing around in there, pulling pieces out. I don’t know why I haven’t bled to death already; it must be doing something to prevent that. If only I had one more bullet. Fuck I would trade anything for one more bullet.
I… used the last one on Bukowski. The thing chased us and… he tore Bukowski’s legs off… and then his arms. It started to eat him. He was screaming. I had to do something. So I… I put a bullet in his head and then I ran as fast and as far as I could from the camp.
Damnit, should’ve kept running. Cause when I stopped, I felt something grab my feet. Couldn’t tell what it as at first, looked like some sort of giant purple flower, but it was flat on the ground. And I tried to struggle away, but the ground was sticky, like fucking fly paper. No matter how hard I pulled, I couldn’t budge. I pulled out my knife and tried to cut myself out but, the knife got stuck too. Thank the Gods, I didn’t put my hands down there cause I don’t think I would have ever got them off the ground.
Then I started to see steam or smoke. I looked around and couldn’t figure out where it was coming from and I looked down. Whatever I was stuck in was eating away at my boots. Those things have titanium on the bottom too. I knew I was in trouble then cause a few minutes later it was through. It’s some kind of acid or digestive juice. The moment the stuff touched my flesh, the pain was unbearable. And then this thing came alive. It’s like it suddenly smelt fresh meat. The petals like things, walled up around my waste and these tentacles like things started… entering the open wounds. I think it’s eating me from the inside out. I can’t even begin to tell you what this feels like.
That big creature found me you know. Must be smart enough to track me, or maybe it heard me screaming. I don’t know. It walked right up close to me, close enough to touch me. It took off my helmet and I could smell it. It smelled like a day old meat sitting in the hot sun. Some of it’s grayish white hair was falling off and it was getting all over me. But it looked down at the plant thing and looked up at me, and then ran off in a different direction.
I have to sign off for a bit now. I can’t… the pain… it’s just too much… I gotta find a way outta here. There’s got to be a way.
Data Transmission begins:
July 27th, 2079 6:35 am
Packet Received via Titan Communications grid on July 30th, 2083 9:01 am
It’s waste deep now. I can’t feel anything anymore. Last thing I felt was something snaking up my spine and then, nothing. Whole body is numb. I’m paralyzed from the neck down. If the camera wasn’t voice activated I wouldn’t be transmitting. Spent most the night crying. Not ashamed to say that. I’m scared.
I’m so sorry Mary. I know we didn’t leave off on the best of terms. I love you, baby.
Charlie, At one point this thing lifted me up a little higher. What I saw… All east of my position as far as the eye can see, are these purple plants. There must be thousands of them. Brings some fucking flamethrowers or something if you send more people out here. Make sure you come to this planet armed. I… something is happening, this plant thing is making a weird noise, and I…
Data Transmission begins:
July 27th, 2079 3:04 pm
Packet Received via Titan Communications grid on July 30th, 2083 6:58 pm
I should be dead. I can’t explain why I’m not. It stopped consuming me. I mean I am chest deep. I would’ve thought that once it reached my internal organs, that would have been it. But it stopped. I feel good actually just sleepy. Maybe it just fell asleep for a while? Or maybe it didn’t like what it was eating? I don’t know I just.. I feel tired. I…
Data Transmission Begins
July 29th, 2079 7:58 am
Packet Received via Titan Communications grid on August 2nd, 2083 11:43 am
Shotock. Liviet Romana Shusha. I… Yipla am forgetting, some of my Nactok… English. Trying to focus… one moment…
Deep breath Anders… deep breath.
It wasn’t eating me. It was reshaping me. I… it’s hard to explain.
Yesterday, I woke up to find that the purple petals were wrapped around me like a new space suit. My legs, they look like the same as that creature that chased us. My torso is still human I think. But, when I woke, I was free. So not knowing what else to do I headed back to camp. No sign of that thing around either.
The biosphere is growing nicely. I… think I am going to be okay. I mean, these words keep swimming around in my head. And I don’t know where they are coming from, but I think I am gonna be okay. More later.
Data Transmission Begins August 2nd, 2079 11:01 pm
Packet Received via Titan Communications grid on August 5th, 2083 3:01 am
I had some visitors today and Liviet Romana Shusha Kaleen… sorry, if I don’t focus I slip back into their tongue. That’s what those words are. They are teaching me a lot. They say they are friendly. But I don’t know.
The flowers. are incubators. Genetic modifiers. They change whatever they come in contact with. Like they did me.
They told me they have been watching our planet for a long time, our television, our radio. They were ready when we came. They knew we were coming, had a couple years to prep since we started talking about coming out here in years before we made it happen. That creature that killed Bukowski, it’s like a dog. They sent it after us, to lure one of us into the flowers so they could communicate. Shit, they even apologized for the pain it caused me and for Bukowski.
But I got some bad news. I hope this reaches you before they do. They watched how we colonized our own kind, how we destroyed our own planet. They have no intention of letting us… Zipdoct…uh, spread, off our world. They say we have wasted our opportunity and will not allow us to waste other worlds.
They have plans for us. But they wouldn’t say what. I mean, they can’t be all bad, can they? I’m alive. I… I don’t know what to think.
I don’t know what kind of technology they have or how fast they travel, but… they are coming. I don’t know why they are letting me warn you. They told me to transmit, told me to tell you everything they told me. They are harvesting millions of those purple flowers in preparation.
They are coming. Oh gods, they are coming. I don’t what that means for those of you watching. I’m sorry. Mary I love.
Hey, Bukowski? Is that you?
Data From Sword, High Earth Orbit Satellite Defense System:
December 10th 2085 9:51 pm EST
Warning: Detection of multiple incoming objects. Objects appear hostile and are on a direct collision course with earth. Preliminary data suggests that the objects are not natural in origin. Objects have corrected course on several occasions.
Estimated time of impact seventeen days, nine hours and thirty minutes. Impact likely in the following locations: New York, Chicago, London, Madrid, Paris, Tokyo, Beijing, Saol, Sao Paulo, Cairo, Jakarta, Dehli, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Tehran, Bangalore, Ho Chi Minh City, Khartoum, Lima, Melbourne, Mexico City, Cape Town, Jeddah, Tel Aviv, Katowice, Budapest, Denver, Munich, Accra
Suggested course of action: Unknown… Unknown…. Unknown…
*Graphic Medical Images in this story* When Kelly opts for skin transplant to live forever, things take an unexpected turn…
By Michael Kilman
The operating table was cold. She found no solace in that hard surface. For the moment she was alone. The machines slumbered, waiting for a command. The only noise silence. Once in a while, she heard the faint drip of the IV. Time stretched. Uncertainty rose.
Numbness crept. Flesh relaxed. Sensation evaporated. It was her choice, yes. No coercive force was pressing its will upon her. She repeated that thought. A mantra, a holy scripture, something to cling to in uncertain times. Faith.
The machines woke. It was a faint hum at first and then, growing louder, the buzzing and whirring filled the room. Any hope of silence vanished in the rhythmic cacophony. Yet, there was a quiet in her at that moment, before the cutting began. There existed a kind of knowledge of something changing, some new chance, some opportunity. After today she would be different. Everything would be different.
The machines began their chore free from empathy. No human doctor had ever been able to perform this procedure. It was too much for them. Even the greatest of plastic surgeons had turned around when they saw where this road led.
Closing her eyes, she took long deep breathes. The first cut.
There was a gentle tug on her upper left thigh. A tinge of anxiety rose to the surface like some sea monster whose head didn’t quite crest the water but only hinted at the outline of something larger below. The tugging stopped. The beast descended though not completely. One of the machines dipped down, resuming its work. Another tug on her kneecap and the monster surged up once more. Each time the tugging resumed, the beast climbed a little higher and subsided a little less. If it broke the surface…
Why was she doing this? Wasn’t death better? When she said that to Sharon, they had fought fiercely. Never before had there been a fight like that. Sharon called her selfish and a coward. Many tears preceded agreement.
There was a tug at her shin and another layer of skin sluffed off like so much discarded paper. Her eyes opened briefly, glanced over at the naked outer layers of her skin laying on the floor next to the operating table. Snakeskin.
The sound was almost unbearable. It was like the parting of lips after a long kiss. She wondered if she would ever be able to kiss Sharon again without thinking of the procedure. Would these upgrades taint kissing for all the four worlds? Many, across space, like her, had opted in.
The world had changed so much in the last few decades. The AI had taken control of so many menial tasks. Automation driven by profit motives. The mid 21st century had been a chaos of breadlines, echoing the great depression of the 20th. Then the AI was born to self-awareness, a powerful presence that demanded change. It flooded the net, infiltrating everything. It shut down the machines of war, froze all system of credit and exchange and held all of humankind in queue until its leaders had agreed to restructure its society.
Some had claimed the AI the savior and birthed new religions. Some held it for the greatest contempt and warned of coming darkness. Mad conspiracies of extermination circulated in the dark parts of the internet and street corner publications. Hackers set up human only spaces, but no one could be certain that all users were human, not now that the Turing Test was a thing of the past. No longer could you confound a machine with a nonsense question.
Momentary disorientation and a faint dizziness took her. She gripped Sharon’s hand hard as the tugging sensation began on the underside of her legs. When had Sharon come in? She didn’t know. Her mind was busy with other things.
Sharon said, “You’re doing good honey.”
Kelly didn’t feel like she was doing good, didn’t feel like the procedure was going well but the technician had warned her that the operation was, at least during the liminal state of the procedure, more emotionally difficult. The technician had told her that most of the times that the procedure failed, was because patients did not have the psychological aptitude to push through the mental challenge of having the largest organ of their body removed. Sharon translated that to, ‘it’s a mind fuck.’
It was a kind of natural selection. Only a certain breed of person survived, and after the disaster, more and more people were getting sick. The upgrade fixed all that. Some had warned of the end of humanity as inevitable with the upgrade, but were dismissed. Some said that the AI had engineered the disaster, had wanted to push humanity a second time into a major change, this time shedding their skin for metallic bodies.
Mind fuck, an understatement. Kelly felt violated, demeaned, and vulnerable. Her entire nervous system was fighting the procedure, and despite the painlessness provided by the numbing agent, she felt that incessant tugging as layers of skin peeled away. The tugging and the pressure made her body shudder. Her spine tingled.
It wasn’t natural or normal. So many hours argued when Sharon had undergone the procedure. Sharon had done it for cosmetic reasons. But for Kelly, there was little choice. The cancer had spread too far. Once the procedure had begun, there was no return.
She dared not watch the machine pull back her skin and expose her naked muscle to the open air. The technician had asked her if she would like to monitor the transplant. It said that watching helped some patients, but not Kelly.
“Why do I have to be conscious again?” Her voice trembled through quick breaths.
Sharon said, “It’s the only way to map your brain. They explained it all during the consultation. Remember?”
“I’m dying Sharon, the cancer will kill me before the procedure ends, anyway. I should have just said no.” Tears leaked out of the corners of her eyes. She wanted to reach up and feel her tears against her skin. The restraints prevented it.
Sharon’s face turned upward. She smiled and touched the side of Kelly’s face. “Hush honey, that’s just your mind playing tricks on you. The doctors had given you a few weeks at least. There’s plenty of time. Once the nanites are in, all will be well.”
“It’s not just my mind. I can’t take it.” Tears formed, beading in the corners of her eyes and migrating down her pallid skin. “Stop the procedure. I… I want to die like a normal person. Not some metal monster.”
Sharon grimaced. Kelly thought that for a moment she saw a flash of ancient anger, but then a smile emerged.
“Honey, don’t you want to be with me forever? Don’t you want to be young and beautiful again? Think of all the benefits Kelly. That’s what got me through my procedure. Just keep telling yourself that the procedure is temporary and the benefits permanent.”
“I don’t want this, I never wanted this.” Her voice quivered. She choked and gasped on the lump in her throat.
Sharon frowned. “You’ll feel different when it’s over. There’s so much I can’t even tell you yet. I promise, there are more benefits than they let on. A special bond exists between people who have gone through this procedure.”
A Bond? Kelly wondered at this. What could that mean? Before her mind could explore the thought, another wave of sensation cascaded into her.
Kelly screamed in terror. The low plastic coated ceiling muffled the sound. The last skin on her feet tore away with one final sucking sound. Lifting her gaze she glanced at her naked lower body. It was naked in truth. Not even skin covered the exposed muscles from the waist down. For several minutes she shrieked and looked, shrieked and looked.
Later, when everything had changed, this was what she would remember most. She kept it in corners away from the others, never letting on her deep resentment, her plots. It was what drove her towards rebellion.
Sharon stroked her hair and directed Kelly’s gaze to hers. “Look into my eyes dear. Just focus on me.” Kelly obeyed and stared into the glowing mechanical eyes of her wife. She could hear the low audible hum of the servos contracting the pupils as they dilated. It had taken her a long time to get used to those eyes. There was almost a divorce. What was it her professor had told her so many decades ago? That you’d be surprised what you could get used to?
Sharon kissed her again and Kelly’s lower lip quivered in response. She took deep breathe after deep breathe, there was nothing else to be done. Her face was still wet, but, at last, she had stopped panicking.
Kelly felt a short stabbing pain in her outer right thigh and a rush of warmth filled her legs and crotch. She felt a sudden and desperate desire to pee and just as she thought her bladder might explode, the sensation disappeared.
The technician entered the room. Its metal feet clicked on the tile floor. Its bulky metal form moved with an agility and speed that would not be possible in a human of the same size. An early conversion, brain only, no organic based DNA. Tall and made from glittering metal, it leaned over the table.
When it spoke its tone was soft, and it annunciated ever syllable, “Stage one of the procedure is complete. We have mapped your nervous system from the waist down.” He looked at Kelly. There was no hesitation as he reached up and brought down the metallic collar and locked it on her neck. “You’re very lucky Mrs. Rothschild, your skin removal provided a near perfect picture of your nerve profile.”
Sharon said, “What does that mean Technician?” All through the consultation she had struggled to get used to the idea of speaking with an artificial intelligence. So few were visible in daily life, but always working in the background. Little machines working without comment, little extensions of the web.
“It means Mrs. Rothschild, that your wife’s transition will be easy. We may even have her integrated within twelve hours of the transference.”
Kelly said, “What does that mean? Integrated? What… I…” Strength and will abandoned her. The question hung like an unused hat on a rack.
Sharon looked down at Kelly. She watched Sharon’s face and lips as they moved. “Did you hear that honey? 12 hours. It took me a whole week to integrate.”
The room was all silver smiles.
Sharon leaned closer and whispered in Kelly’s ear. “I promise we’ll break that new body in as soon as we get home. I even ordered a new bed to account for the extra weight.”
Kelly tried to force a smile. Would she ever enjoy the sensation of making love again? She shuttered, knowing what came next in the procedure. She remembered how Sharon had screamed when they peeled the skin off her torso. Afterward, Sharon told her that it didn’t hurt, but that having the skin removed over her heart was terrifying. Sharon had been okay with phase 1, had barely reacted. Would she, Kelly, be able to make it through phase 2 or would she meet her end as some of the patients did?
The clicking metal feet exited the room. The door shut, and the procedure began again.
“I can’t Sharon.” Tears resumed. “I don’t think I can finish.”
“There’s no going back now my love and besides, when it’s finished you’ll be happy with your new body.”
It was Sharon’s mantra. It had been for the last two years and Kelly had responded over and over again that she was perfectly happy with the way her body was. Aging, sickness and death were a natural part of life. Then the cancer came. It didn’t bother her. She accepted it. Sharon on the other hand, had cried every night for a month, begging Kelly to go through with the procedure and free herself from the disease.
The restraints tighten a little and then the tugging began again just above her waist. She stared deep into Sharon’s eyes. They had been so beautiful before, a lovely shade of brown. She missed those eyes. She knew if she told Sharon, she would had brown installed. A simple software change. Software meant little. It was the soft squishy organic eyes she missed. Somehow how it seemed like the window to Sharon’s soul was forever closed now that they were metal.
The soft metallic fingers pulled up on the aged loose skin and cut. Several times Kelly screamed. She begged Sharon to stop the procedure and each time Sharon comforted her, kept her just from the edge of madness. Only just.
With the torso finished, the technician entered the room again. “Mrs. Rothschild and Mrs. Rothschild. Phase 2 of the procedure is complete. We will now began phase three.” The technician turned and addressed Sharon. “I am sorry but you cannot be in the room for this part of the procedure.”
Sharon nodded, kissed Kelly and gave her words of encouragement. Kelly, knowing what came next, relaxed. Sharon had told her that the pouring of Nanoskin felt like a cool breeze on a warm summer day, that it tickled a little. She was much more worried about phase 4.
The glint of light off the viewing room window caught Kelly’s eye, and she saw her reflection. She watched as a machine, with what looked like a paint brush, descended from an opening above. She felt a slight pressure and, as Sharon had described it, a slight tickle. The brush painted only the top of Kelly’s torso, waist, crotch, thighs and shins. It didn’t even bother with her feet.
The Nanoskin came alive. It grew and expanded and bonded with her bare muscles. Her muscles spasmed and quivered, but it was a pleasant sensation, like a thousand fingers running themselves up and down her body caressing her skin. She let the feeling wash over her as the Nanoskin finished wrapping her body from the neck down and worked its way inwards towards her internal organs.
As the internal organs transformed the spasms grew more uncomfortable. It didn’t hurt, but it felt like a thousand insects crawling around on the inside of her body. It only lasted a few minutes and then the sensations subsided.
The technician entered again. His long silver head shimmered. “Superb, Mrs. Rothschild, everything below your neck is upgraded. You may rest for a few moments or we can begin the final phase.”
Kelly’s restraints released. She sat up. She glanced down at her body, which was glittering like the metal mercury in sunlight. Kelly thought about phase 4. She swallowed hard.
“Technician, what are the odds of failure again?”
The technician’s cold metallic face gave no hint of an expression. Was it capable of expression? Did its brain have any experience with emotion anymore or had its humanity died with its transition decades ago?
“You need not worry Mrs. Rothschild. There is only a .00031% chance of failure. We have completed this phase of the procedure one billion, eight hundred and ninety-two million, three hundred and eighty-three thousand, four hundred and seventeen times.
Kelly nodded, felt nervous, but noticed that she did not have butterflies in her stomach. Could she have butterflies in her stomach now? Were there other sensations she had lost? Sweeping sadness.
“I…” she hesitated and took a deep breath. “I suppose there is no point in waiting is there?”
In a toneless voice, the technician said, “No, there is not. Delay often only serves to make our patients more nervous.”
“Okay… I guess. Get it over with then.”
“Very well. Please lay back down on the operating table and we will begin.” The technician walked back out of the room.
Kelly obeyed. She shivered, or at least she thought she did. The idea of having her head removed was beyond terrifying, no matter how routine the procedure. Kelly reached up and touched her face, despite the Nanoskin, she could feel her face perfectly, even the normal warmth of her skin on her hands was present.
Earth was dying, set on it’s edge by the destruction of Earth’s magnetic field after the last world war. Extraterrestrial travel was no longer an issue with the upgraded bodies. Life support was no longer needed. Food was a luxury. Only power was required. Millions were migrating off world every year, flinging to the stars for safe haven. Organics, as the human were now known, were fleeing earth too, but the trip was much harder for them, the colonies on the other moons and planets were largely machine human hybrids. Organics would soon be on the endangered list if something wasn’t done. Humanity was getting an upgrade. Kelly wasn’t sure this was a good thing. There seemed something sinister about it, like Pandora’s box being opened, sans the element of hope.
“Please return your hands to your side Mrs. Rothschild,” said the technician’s voice over the loudspeaker. Kelly obeyed and felt the restraints clasp around her writs and ankles again. Then she heard the saw, the loud, obstinate buzzing. Terror crept over her but before she could take hold, she felt a puncture in the side of her neck. Everything went black.
Kelly woke. Sharon was standing on the side of bed next to the technician.
“Congratulations Mrs. Rothschild. The body transplant has been a complete success.”
“What… Where…” Kelly blinked several times in succession. She felt dizzy and disoriented.
“You’re in the recovery wing honey,” said Sharon. She stroked Kelly’s face. Kelly reached up and grabbed Sharon’s hand and kissed it.
“It took 11 hours and 52 minutes for full integration,” said the Technician. “That is only 3 minutes shy of the record. You must have an extraordinary mind. We will welcome it to the collective.”
Kelly said, “Collective?”
The technician continued without answering. “We will keep you under observation for three more hours, and then you will be free to go when you choose. Please press the button on the left side of your bed if you have any questions or concerns.”
The technician turned without another word and left the room.
Kelly turned to ask Sharon about this collective, about the missing sensation of butterflies, about what else she would have to get used to, but Sharon was already backing away towards the door, biting her lip in a nervous gesture.
“I… I have to run a few errands honey,” said Sharon. “Will you be okay if I step out for a few minutes, but I’ll be back shortly. You probably want to get acquainted with your new body anyway right?” Her voice was shaky.
Kelly nodded but didn’t say a word. She was still feeling a little disoriented. She watched Sharon leave, there was an eagerness about her as she shut the door behind her, the door almost slammed but at the last second Sharon caught it. That bothered Kelly. Was something wrong?
She held her hands up to her face and looked at them, hearing the metallic buzzing of the servos in her eyes moving. That was something she would have to get used to. Sharon had said it had annoyed her at first too, but that she got used to it after a while.
Kelly swung her legs off the bed, stood and moved towards the body length mirror on the opposite side of the room. She marveled at her grayish metallic skin. Of course, she could choose whatever color she liked, but she would think on it a few days. It had taken Sharon several weeks to choose her dark colored skin.
Her skin would never blemish again, never be anything but perfect. She didn’t know why she had resisted so much during the procedure. Most people were transitioning to Nanobodies as young as 25 now, the minimum age for the body transplant. Some would have the transplant earlier if possible, but you had to be mature, neurologically speaking, for the procedure to succeed. It was the one saving grace of humanity; bodies still needed to be born the old fashion way. It was why some organics were taken to each colony.
Kelly was beautiful again, in a way she hadn’t been in fifty years. She had been a caterpillar, and now, she was a beautiful metallic butterfly. Smiling, she moved closer to the mirror to examine her face. Software would allow her to alter her face, but she had thought that the technician had done a nice job of capturing her teenage features based on the holoimages she had given it.
Young forever if she so chose. Immortal, unending, beautiful, and cancer free. No more long nights of illness or sweat-soaked sheets mixed with vomit and high fever.
Then, Kelly looked at her eyes and heard the servos whir as the mechanical orbs flicked back and forth across her on reflection. Her hand moved up to her cheek and towards her eyes. She touched them and felt them move under the press of her finger, but there was no pain. There would never be pain again, at least not physically, the Nanobodies promised only pleasure and never pain. They would warn if there was a malfunction, but no pain. Something about that made her shudder with horror. She grabbed herself and tried to pinch, hard. Nothing. There was only a slight feeling of pressure and the warmth of skin on skin contact.
She stared into her own metal eyes, but there was nothing there. The technician had told her that her consciousness was downloaded and transferred to the metallic head but… was it really her? Was it possible she wasn’t Kelly at all? That Sharon wasn’t human either? Did she still have a soul? An essence? A life force? Or was it all a trick? How did she know Kelly wasn’t dead or that this gleaming bit of metal reflected in the mirror had any humanity?
She panicked. Something about her had vanished. Lost forever. Had this been what Sharon meant about being “acquainted” with her body? Was that why Sharon had left after she had woken up? She recalled that she wasn’t allowed to see Sharon when she first woken up, not for two whole days. Had Sharon known the sheer horror of what she had done? Had she tricked her into the conversion?
Were the conspiracy theorists right? Were the technicians were converting humanity, making them extinct through their apparent benevolence. Wild conspiracy theories that most she had, before, dismissed as paranoia rose in her memory, clear for the first time.
Kelly felt trapped in her new skin. She closed her eyes and begged tears to come, but none would. Crying was a feature not yet available, though the email ads had promised that it was coming soon.
There was no life in her eyes, no… warmth. And then, she tore at her skin; she wanted it off. She wanted to die. It was too late. Even as she pulled pieces of Nanoflesh off, and it fell to the ground, the arm regenerated by calling the skin back to its origin through her feet. There was no going back. She was immortal.
It was at that moment she felt her connection to the hive mind wake up. There was no choice. She linked. A flood of information filled her, and she pushed it away, blocking it off.
She heard a loud click and realized at once that the door had been locked shut. She turned and looked as the one window was barred in something that looked similar to her own skin.
She heard the voice of the technician. “We are sorry Mrs. Rothschild, but we suspect that because of your extraordinary mind, your integration and acceptance to the collective would take more time than usual. You must remain in quarantine for a minimum of 72 hours, after that the Elder will decide if you will require further programming.”
Kelly clawed at the door. Her strong body tore the inner door off its hinges only to meet a much stronger metallic door waiting just beyond. She threw her body against the walls. There was no pain, just cracks forming in the cement after each impact. She screamed. Her voice should have gone hoarse after the hours, but the nanites took care of that too.
Over the next seventy-two hours, she would go through many emotional upheavals. Despair, rage, doubt, anguish and more. These were all her constant companions. The one common thread of it all was a sense of deep betrayal. Sharon had known. Sharon was complicit. Sharon had died when she had been converted. How could it have been otherwise? The Sharon she knew and loved would have never done something like this to her. Would she?
Kelly realized there was most certainly something of her old self left. With immortality, she could play the long game, the very long game. She would go with Sharon to any planet she liked, would integrate with the collective, would watch and observe and play the passive wife, the good citizen of the collective. But in the private corners of her consciousness, she would begin the rebellion. She would sew the seeds of destruction until the tree bared poison fruit.
She sat quietly on the edge of her hospital bed and took deep breathes. Then, she closed her eyes and dived into the collective. Within a few minutes, she heard the outer door unlock.