Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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The Modified

by R.D. Harris

I hadn't seen a mod before that day. I haven't seen one since and hope that my good fortune continues.

As a young man, forty-ish, I frequented a rough watering hole known as The Boulder. Bar fights were common, injuries even more so. Rough, ex-soldiers from the war drifted in and out.

With everything I witnessed in the place, it was the Mod I remember most. Mods had been forged mercenaries in the war--soldiers of fortune if you will--but then simply wandered the Earth after conflict ceased.

It was a tranquil day for the bar. In he walked out of nowhere. The Mod's footsteps fell heavy, yet he strode. Wooden boards moaned woefully underfoot and a murmuring hush fell over the bar. He hung a leather trench coat on the chair next to mine. Lucky me, I thought.

"Afternoon, friend," he said to me. His words sounded like garbled radio transmissions. I could only guess at how much of him could be constituted as organic. Flesh was missing from his forearm. An intertwining collage of wires, veins, and arteries were clearly visible. It gave me chills to see the inner workings of his body.

"Afternoon," I said back.

He ordered a drink and threw it back with purpose. "What does it mean to be human... fully?"

"Well," I uttered, "I suppose it's being born, living a full life, then dyin'."

"But why do normal humans live so zealously if they know they will one day die? All accomplishments are in vain it would seem."

I struggled to find an answer for his question.

He asked, "Do you not know?"

I said, "Maybe people think what they do can help others. Make the world better I guess."

The revolver that had been in his holster was now in his right hand. He pointed it to the ceiling, showing the dulled shine of its metal. "Do you know what this is?"

"Why it's a chrome revolver... six-shooter," I said to him.

He slowly aimed the gun at my forehead. I was trembling almost uncontrollably.

"One shot between the eyes and humanity, at least for you, means nothing."

I waited silently for the end, closing my eyes. Moments went by and nothing happened. My eyes opened and the revolver was still trained on my forehead. The mod was staring at me as though he was talking himself out of it.

"You're not pleading for your life. Why?"

"There's nothing I can do," I said, trying not to urinate on myself.

"You have several options. Fight, run, anything but accept death."

He holstered the sidearm. The semi-human had hoped for some sport but received none from me. "I struggle to understand Mankind. Perhaps I wasn't meant to."

"You're a brave man," he said as he got up from the bar stool, floor creaking under him. "Good luck to you, friend. I'm sure you'll need it." He threw his trench coat back on and headed to the door. As quickly as he'd come, he left with the sandy wind.


2017 R. D. Harris

Bio: Mr. Harris was born in Charlotte, NC but currently resides in Tempe, AZ. He is a graduate of Stanly Community College and enjoys time with his son. His last Aphelion appearance was Lady Luck in our October, 2016 issue.

E-mail: R.D. Harris

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