Aphelion Issue 246, Volume 23
December 2019 / January 2020
 
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Less of Her

by I. Verse



Lumi stood motionless, examining the brass legs. I watched her, searching her face for some sign, some acknowledgement, that she liked what she saw. She reached out with a pale hand and traced the engraved pattern and embedded faux-rubies around the rim of one thigh. She found the inside seam and traced it down to the head of the bolt running through the knee before taking a step back and tilting her head, letting her eyes run up and down the length of them.

"Can I try them on?" she asked, her English accented, each consonant precisely enunciated. I nodded and looked around for a suitable space in my cluttered workshop. She solved the problem for me by pushing the tools to one side on the nearest workbench and pulling herself up on the scarred surface to sit with her legs dangling over the edge.

"Can you help me take these off?" She asked.

She pulled up her skirt, wriggling as she tucked it underneath. Her legs were sheathed in thick, dark stockings to mid thigh, the kind that held themselves up. She rolled down the tops to reveal where her smooth skin met hard plastic and then leaned back on her arms, thrusting her hips forward, pushing her legs further towards me.

I took the right leg, one hand behind her knee to pull and the other on top to steady it. The leg was cool to the touch through the sheer fabric.

"Ready," I told her. She nodded; I felt the click, a small vibration, as the locking bolts disengaged and pulled. Her leg came away easily, revealing the stump of her thigh and the titanium abutment that jutted out of it. I put her right leg next to her on the workbench and reached for the left one. This time the click stuttered. I pulled but the leg remained stubbornly attached.

"It sticks sometimes," Lumi told me. "Pull harder."

I moved my left hand up, onto the warm skin above the plastic, the better to push against, and waited for her signal. It didn't come. Instead, cool fingers slipped under my palm and pulled my hand from her leg.

"This is nice," she said, lifting my hand, "Your own work?"

I nodded dumbly as she held it closer to her face, turning it to examine the joints, the alloy bones and tendon linkages visible through the semi-transparent black dermo-plastic. She ran her fingertips over mine, her thumb along the crease of my palm. I shivered at the sensations. She turned my hand over and ran a finger along the back but I couldn't feel that, no sensors there.

"It's lovely, very delicate," she said. Her finger traced the hardness of the wrist joint, pushing my sleeve up until it found were the plastic stopped and I begun. Her touch chased goosebumps up my arm. I shivered again and shrugged off her grip. I felt my cheeks glowing. I hardly dared to meet her eyes but when I did she was smiling.

"Let's try again," she said, leaning back.

This time her leg came away easily.

I scanned her stumps; the laser strobed across scar tissue, mapping the landscapes of past trauma. It took the printer only a few minutes to build the silicon liners to fit her stumps to the brass legs. I stayed by the machine as it built them up, layer by layer, pretending to monitor its progress.

Lumi stayed where I left her, legless on my workbench, her face bathed in the electric glow of her mobile, engrossed in its display.

With printed liners the brass legs fitted perfectly. She flexed the knees, the ankles, the split camel-like toes; the movements became smoother as feedback loops calibrated.

I held her hand as she slipped down from the worktable and wobbled like a newborn foal. Lumi took tentative steps at first, still gripping my hand for support, becoming more confident as the calibrations improved. She let go of my hand as her step quickened and marched away from me. Lumi pulled back her shoulders and added a seductive wiggle, one ankle crossing in front of the other. She turned at the far end of the workshop and skipped back towards me, sped up to a full run, her white-blond hair flying, before skidding to a stop in front of me, showering sparks from the concrete floor and laughing.

"They are wonderful," she said, her breathing a little harder from exertion. "I thought they would be heavier but they feel so light."

Lumi picked up the hem of her skirt and regarded the brass legs again, twisting the left one out so she could see the curved piston of the calf and the cutaway sections on the outside of the thigh showing cogs and gears. She flexed the foot, making the glistening rod of the Achilles slide.

"The gears don't turn," she said. "Are they just for show?"

"Yes, just for show. But they do turn -- you just have to turn them on. Let me show you. Give me your phone."

She passed me her mobile from the workbench where she'd left it and I knelt down in front of her, thumbing through the interface and menus. I held the phone up close to each thigh, letting it connect with each leg and download the control widgets. I stood up beside her again and showed her the new controls.

"This is the battery read-out for each leg, " I said as I showed her the display. "They recover energy kinetically but will run down. This is how you turn on the effects."

I thumbed the control and red light came alive inside the interior sections of the legs, visible through the cutaway panels. The gears turned, reflecting the internal light, and the faux-ruby beads on the outside of the knee joints glowed deep crimson. Lumi clapped her hands with delight.

"You've really turned me on!" she said and laughed.

"They'll run down faster with all the effects on," I said.

"Oh Claudia, they are so beautiful. Thank you."

Before I knew what was happening, she had wrapped her arms around me and hugged me. I stood in her embrace, awkward and stiff, my arms stuck straight down at my sides. She was warm and soft, she smelt of lavender and coffee. She let go of me slowly, her eyes seeking mine, trying to hold my gaze.

"I'll get you a carry case," I said, turning away.

There was no doubt she would buy them.

####

At the door to my workshop she handed the case containing her new brass legs to the taxi driver. I held the door open for her, anxious for her to go but somehow melancholy that she was leaving.

"Thank you, Claudia," she said, turning back to me. "They are perfect. So beautiful."

"Any problems, you know where to find me," I said.

Lumi stepped up close to me, smiling her shy smile. "Do I need such an excuse to come back, to see you again?"

"No."

It sounded sharper than I intended. I felt her hand on my arm as she leaned in close, her lips brushed mine in a farewell kiss. It was soft, chaste, devastating. Then she was gone, waving as she got into the back of the taxi.

I watched until it was out of sight.

####

I logged into my bank. Lumi's payment pushed my account out of the red and still left a healthy balance. A quick mental calculation and I transferred as much as I dared to the special saving account for the first time in a long time. It was still a depressingly long way from what I needed.

The e-mail notification winked at me as I logged out of the bank, I checked it; a Friend request. Lumi must have sent it from the taxi almost as soon as she left. I accepted and the ocean of social data that reflected her life blossomed in front of me; contacts, blog posts, location updates, links that interested her, photo albums.

I dived in.

####

Later, I lay on my makeshift bed in the hidden corner of the workshop and flicked through Lumi's photo albums on a tablet. The stump of my left forearm was cabled to it, my hand removed for charging but not before I had downloaded the recorded data. I had the playback looped, feeding the recent sensations back; the warmth of her thigh under my hand, her cool fingertips on mine, the brush of her thumb along the crease of my palm. Goosebumps up and down my spine, every time. And on the tablet screen; Lumi. Lumi laughing with a group of her friends. Lumi raising a glass of champagne on a balcony, a city night-scape behind her. Lumi on a yacht, blue water and bright sun, her thin summer dress pressed against her body by the wind, her legs still intact and her hair flying. Lumi standing by a car on a darkened highway, her face overexposed in the camera flash, eyes reflecting blood red like a demon, a vampire, a succubus.

####

The e-mail came two days later; it was short and sweet. They loved your legs! Underneath was a link to a steam-punk video blog. I'd never had much interest in steam-punk until Lumi had contacted me with her commission. It seemed rather silly and superficial to me; Victorian clothes and ray-guns, whale-bone bodices and brass pistons, just another dress-up game. But a commission was a commission, I desperately needed the money.

The video was coverage of some kind of ball or party. The centerpiece was a huge Victorian pump engine, gleaming piston rods looming over the crowds, its restored paintwork fresh and unblemished. Somehow, it looked dead to me, like the preserved carcass of an extinct animal. The vlog presenter, looking snappy in a monocle and pith helmet, interviewed people about their costumes, where they had got them or how they had made them. It got dull and repetitive very quickly.

Then he found Lumi.

She had a tall black feather in her hair that bobbed as she moved and a bodice artfully distressed with rips and tears, a black choker tight on her pale neck and long black satin gloves that covered her arms to above the elbows. Ivory colored layers of distressed petticoats floated at her waist with a ragged bustle hanging behind, barely covering her hips. Below that were the brass legs I'd made, the metal gleaming, the cutaway sections infernal with red light and turning gears. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, smiling for the camera, her teeth flashing between red painted lips. I watched it over and over, drinking her in.

####

The company that hosted my website phoned me the next morning. Their servers had been overwhelmed by traffic to my website. When I checked, my e-mail was similarly jammed with message after message about my work or the brass legs. After an hour I gave up trying to deal with it. As fast as I would reply or delete a message another dozen would arrive. When I got online I found the clip of Lumi and the brass legs had gone viral. By noon, the more obsessive bloggers had discovered my mobile number.

The knock at the door came just as I turned off my phone in frustration. I didn't know what to expect but I opened the door with a snarl on my face and a curse ready to throw in the face of whoever stood there. Of course, it was her, it was Lumi. The curse died in my throat, and I stood there, opening and closing my mouth like a goldfish.

"Claudia?"

Like an idiot, I started to cry, and felt worse for doing it in front of her. She led me by the hand back into the workshop, fussing over me and making soothing noises. She sat me down, handed me a tissue from her bag and waited for the tears and sniffing to stop.

"What is it, what's wrong?" She asked when I had it under control.

"It's too much," I told her. "My website is crashed, my e-mail too. My phone keeps ringing. People want to know about the brass legs, they want to make orders but I can't do it. There are too many. It's crazy, I don't know what to do or where to start; it's overwhelming."

"Your designs, they're documented?"

"What?"

"Mechanical drawings, schematics, software, you have it all, yes?"

"Yes."

"Okay, I can help you with this," Lumi said as she dug her phone out of her bag.

####

It was late when we finished. She had talked non-stop, phone call after phone call. She outsourced ordering to a dozen on-line retailers specializing in nerd or steam-punk fashion as well as more specialist sites for the disabled. Supply chain and manufacturing were auctioned out and won by a consortium headed up by an engineering company in Indonesia. I bundled up my designs, and e-mailed them to the engineers. I spent the rest of the time in a voice-chat conference with them as they tried to understand me through the medium of an automated translator. We worked together, Lumi and I, side by side at my workbench, always talking to someone else but speaking to each other with sideways glances.

I was fighting through the backlog of e-mails when Lumi hung up her last call with a curt farewell and looked over at me.

"It's a start," she said. "A few days and it will all be running smoothly."

"How did you do all this?"

She laughed, shaking her head. "I took a business administration course once upon a time. My father wanted me to help run the family business, but I'm afraid I was something of a disappointment to him. Still, a little of it must have stuck. The trick is to delegate everything you don't like to somebody else."

"You've saved my life. I don't know what I can do to make this up to you."

Lumi smiled. "You can start by buying me dinner."

####

I am what they call a shut-in, a nerd, what the Japanese call otaku and what my foster home appointed psychologist described as an obsessive-compulsive bordering on the Autistic spectrum. I love machines and code, mechanisms and circuits. They fascinate and enthrall me. They have logic, rules and complexity. I can work them out, I can deal with them. People, not so much. I'm no good with people. So, I don't get out much and I didn't know any of the local restaurants except by their take-out menus. That is why I took Lumi to my favorite Chinese, the Lucky Garden. They always delivered very quickly, the food was always hot and tasted excellent, in my uncultured experience.

They delivered so fast because the restaurant was on the border of the industrial zone not far from my workshop, on the side I'd never ventured to before. I didn't know this until the puzzled taxi driver drove us there. We got in the taxi outside of my workshop and I gave the driver the address from the menu pinned over my workstation. He looked at me for a long moment, shrugged and then drove down to the end of the road, turned right, drove another few hundred meters and stopped. I tipped him big and got out before he could say anything.

The Lucky Garden wasn't everything I'd hoped for. Delivery boys with rangy bodies and lanky hair hung around the door like flies around roadkill, sharing cigarettes while their battered mopeds charged in their docking racks. Inside was a high counter and an old plasma TV bolted to the end wall, blaring out what I guessed was a Chinese game show with subtitles. The colors were over-bright and the subtitles were blurred with burn-in. There were two plastic tables, the kind used as cheap garden furniture. Two more delivery boys huddled around one table, their heads close as they whispered together and watched us furtively as we crossed to the counter.

"Ready to order?" asked the girl behind the counter. She was young, probably still in school, but her smile was sincere, professional. I looked at Lumi; she was carefully examining the menu stuck with peeling tape to the counter.

"I don't know yet. What's good here?" Lumi asked without looking up.

The counter girl ran down the specials with practiced ease.

"Are you together? Do you want the special set meal for two?" She asked. Lumi looked at me, her face blank, expressionless.

"Sure. Okay?" I said and Lumi nodded in agreement.

We sat at the other plastic table. I stared at its surface, barely seeing the grease and dirt embedded deeply into the scratches. When I looked up, Lumi was watching me. She smiled at me, raised an eyebrow and shrugged. I didn't know what that meant. I went back to staring at the table.

It seemed to take an age but, in reality, our food was ready in only a few minutes. The counter girl rattled off the names of the dishes and held out a paper bag filled with gently steaming cartons of food.

"C-Can we eat it here?" I stammered as I took the bag. The counter girl hardly paused before reaching under the counter and handing me paper napkins, plastic cutlery and two sets of cheap wooden chopsticks. I carried the bag and other stuff to the table. By the time I got there, the counter girl had come out with two clean plates.

Lumi opened the cartons and placed them on the table between us and we helped ourselves. She made sounds of appreciation, praised the food, tried to make small-talk. After a steady return of monosyllables she stopped trying and we ate in silence. Behind me, the delivery boys came and went but I could feel their eyes watching us, my skin crawled with it.

I felt sick by the time we had finished eating. The thickness of the air and the stench of frying had become overpowering. Stepping out of the front door and into the quickening twilight was a relief. We hovered together on the edge of the light pool cast by the Lucky Garden's window.

"Sorry," I said.

"What for?"

"This isn't what I expected," I said. "I only took take-outs before."

Lumi laughed, a low, dry chuckle. "The food was good though, even if the ambiance wasn't everything I could have hoped for. Is that why you haven't said more than two words together since we got here?"

I nodded, head down with shame.

"Well, I was more interested in your company than the food really. It's a pity."

"What now?" I asked.

"Coffee?"

I looked back at the Lucky Garden, uncertain. Lumi seemed to read my mind.

"We could go back to your place?"

I nodded and turned, started walking back the way we had come in the taxi. Lumi caught up beside me quickly.

"Where are we going?"

"Back to the workshop."

"I meant, maybe we could go back to where you live, somewhere you would feel more comfortable, more relaxed.

I stopped and Lumi stopped beside me. "I live at the workshop, I don't have anywhere else," I confessed.

"Come with me then," she said, after a beat, "I have a hotel room, come back to the hotel with me."

"For coffee?"

"If you like."

I felt flustered, stupid. I wanted it to be over, the awkwardness and embarrassment but part of me was thrilled, excited, part of me wanted to go with her. I nodded. She called a taxi.

It was still early evening, the hotel lobby was bright with hard edges of marble and glass. Hotel staff looked precise, the sharp creases of their uniforms complementing the angles of the architecture. I waited by the revolving doors as Lumi went to the desk. I almost expected to be told to leave for making the place look untidy. Lumi talked to the receptionist with a semaphore of smiles and nods. They laughed together as the receptionist handed her a key-card. I envied them their poise and ease. Lumi walked back to me, a smile still on her lips, took me by the hand and led me to the elevators. I followed her, mute and meek.

In the elevator, she said nothing, just long-looks and smiles. I returned them in kind but they looked unconvincing in the mirrors surrounding us.

She led me down a hushed carpeted hallway, past identical doors. TV sounds blared behind some, most were quiet, anonymous. At the end, she opened her door and beckoned me into to a cool dark room. She put her card in a slot by the door, recessed lights came on. A double bed, a TV, a desk, a sofa, a door open to a white bathroom. It was neat and tidy. It smelled clean, like fresh linen. The hum of the mini-bar and air-conditioning was soothing.

"Do you really want coffee?" Lumi asked, dumping her bag on the sofa and shrugging off her jacket.

"Not really," I was so jittery, coffee was the last thing I wanted.

"I didn't think so."

She came at me so fast I thought she was going to attack me. In a way, she did; she kissed me hard enough to bruise. This was no chaste goodbye, this was urgent, insistent. Lumi pushed herself against me, I felt my lips part against hers, felt the sharpness of her teeth. The shock of it ran through me, made my breath falter, made my heart beat fast. By the time I came to my senses I was already kissing her back.

####

"How did you lose it?" She asked.

Lumi lay up close against my side. Her head on my shoulder, my arm comfortably wrapped around her, my real hand roaming the smooth, warm skin of her back. One of her legs was draped across mine, pinning me. Her leg was cold and uncomfortably hard but I didn't want to complain, I didn't want to move. Lumi was toying with my artificial hand, pushing her fingers against my fingers, bending them this way and that.

I took too long to answer. She lifted her head and looked me in the eye, uncomfortably close, her face almost a blur.

"An accident," I said. It must have been obvious I was lying, it sounded hesitant and false to my own ears, but I was too ashamed to tell the truth. Something shifted in Lumi's face; she nodded to herself as she stared into my eyes.

"How did you lose your legs?" I asked before she could dig further.

"It doesn't matter," she said, laying her head back on my shoulder. "Those brass legs you made me are beautiful, works of art, and your hand is wonderful," she said. "We're better this way, aren't we?" Even I could tell it was a deflection. I didn't answer.

Lumi stopped playing with my hand, her eyes closed, her breathing became gentle and slow. I lay awake, my legs pinned and uncomfortable, and watched her sleep.

####

My missing left hand is congenital, I was born without it. There was nothing but a miss-shaped flap of skin that was removed soon after my birth. I'd seen my records once I was legally old enough to request them. My mother put me up for adoption the day I was born and hid her trail well. I never found her but I don't think it's a mystery why she got rid of me. After all, if I was born physically disfigured, what else might be wrong with me?

Nobody adopts a disabled child. Nobody wants you without ten fingers and ten toes. I expect my introverted personality didn't help prospective parents warm to me either.

I got my first artificial hand when I was eleven. An adult-size reconditioned model from a charity. It was a pale, dirty pink, chipped and scuffed. The functionality was crude, a simple grasping of fused fingers and thumb. It was ugly and stupid, and I hated myself for needing it so much. The other kids in the home teased me mercilessly. They called me ‘fiddler' and ‘crab' and ran screaming in mock terror from me. I hated them for it and envied them their luck; their fortune to be born whole, to be complete.

####

"What is this," Lumi asked, "a robot snake?"

We were looking through my workshop, excavating old half-finished or aborted projects, anything to add to my portfolio of products. My steam-punk brass limbs were selling reasonably well at a good price even though, after only a week, imitators were already coming onto the market. Lumi held up a flaccid black coil of linkages wrapped in transparent latex skin for me to identify.

"It's a tentacle," I said, taking it from her, "I toyed with it but the control systems don't work. It's buggy,"

"Show me," she said.

I felt self-conscious, taking off my hand in front of Lumi. She had no such problem with me. She would sprawl legless and naked across her hotel bed without the least bit of concern when we were together. I couldn't even undress in front of her without blushing. I attached the tentacle, feeling the odd weight of it and the way the extended length of my arm pulled on different muscles. I showed her how it worked.

"The tip has a very high density of sensors. I thought it might be useful but really I just made it to see if I could," I told her.

"It doesn't seem defective to me."

"When I try and straighten it like this," I extended the tentacle, "it gets stuck in a control loop and this happens." The snake-like limb started to judder as the artificial muscles down its flanks stopped co-operating and started to work against each other.

"Oh Claudia," Lumi said, as she reached out and grasped the writhing thing. "That's not a bug, that's a feature."

I felt my face turn crimson again but somehow I didn't care, not when I was with her. My life had changed so much because of her. I was making money, it was steadily trickling in. I watched my savings account grow every day towards the target but it didn't seem to matter so much anymore. Not when I had Lumi with me.

####

"I have to go away for a few days, maybe a week," she said. She had waited until we were snuggled naked together in her hotel bed.

"When?" I asked, the catch in my voice so clearly audible.

"Tomorrow... I'll keep the room, you can stay here while I'm away, if you like."

"Where are you going? I need you here." I said. It sounded desperate and whiny even to me.

"It's something I have to do," she said as she nuzzled my ear, "It's a surprise."

I wanted to ask more, I wanted to know everything that she wasn't telling me, but she silenced me with a kiss and then she did things that left no thought or breath for conversation. In the morning she was gone.

####

For two days, I slipped through the hotel lobby like a thief, not wanting to catch the eye of anyone in case they realized I wasn't a paying guest and threw me out. Normally, I would do my utmost to avoid such an anxiety laden situation but there were compensations. The pillows, the bed, the clothes she left in the wardrobe, they all smelled like her. I had banned the maid service, a discreet sign hung outside the door. I spent each day, unable to concentrate, listlessly picking up projects only to drop them a few moments later. I compulsively checked my phone or my e-mail. I spent each lonely night in longing and frustration, surrounded by her scent.

On the third day, I was caught.

As I tried to slip from the elevator to the revolving door, I saw the receptionist look my way. She glanced to a man sitting on a sofa in the waiting area and nodded to him. He rose and quickly intercepted me before I could make my getaway. He was old, grey hair in a stiff short cut, almost military, and his face was lined and very tanned. The clothes he wore were tasteful, expensive: a jacket, shirt and tie. This was no uniform; he didn't look like a security guard or anyone who worked for the hotel. I began to fear he might be police.

"You are the woman staying in my daughter's room?" His voice was accented like Lumi's, harsh, deeper and more guttural. I was dumbfounded. I nodded, rooted to the spot.

"I am trying to find her but I understand she's not here now."

I nodded again, not venturing anything else, not making eye contact.

"You're definitely her type." He said, switching tact, his voice a little gentler, I looked up and he was smiling, it didn't look like something he did very often. "She always likes the shy ones."

I looked away again, too embarrassed to respond, even if I knew what to say.

"Please," he said, "I need to find her, to see her. She isn't well you know."

He must have seen the surprise on my face but I was coming to realize that I hardly knew Lumi at all. She had money but I never questioned where it came from. She never really spoke about friends, family, or a job. I was so caught up in her that I didn't want to break the spell by asking difficult questions.

He made to hand me a business card, and as I reached for it his eyes narrowed. He grabbed my arm and held my artificial hand up between us.

"I should have known," he growled. "Yes, you are too much her type. You have so much in common, don't you?"

I've known many reactions to my artificial hand; surprise, sympathy, curiosity. But never such anger, such hostility. He let go and I staggered away from him.

"Here," he said. He took a pen from his pocket and wrote something on the back of the card. Around the lobby, people were watching us, we were the center of attention. He thrust the card back at me and I took it from him hesitantly.

"When you see her again, call me. It will be worth your while."

He pivoted on his heels and stormed out of the lobby without a backwards glance. I turned over the bent and creased business card. There was a large number written on the back. A very large number. I was utterly bewildered. Clutching the card in my hand, I fled.

####

She called me from a plane, three hours before it landed.

"Will you come and meet me at the airport?" She sounded tired, she didn't sound herself. I thought about what her father had said, I wanted to ask her if she was sick.

"I'll come. What's wrong, are you ill?"

"You'll see. It's a surprise, it's a good thing."

She came through the arrivals gate, head held high and striding confidently but I could see the darkness under her eyes, the hollowness in her cheeks. Then I saw her arm was in a sling, bandaged to her side under her coat.

"Oh, my God! Lumi, what's happened to you?" I asked and hugged her. She winced a little but her smile was triumphant.

"Will you make me new legs?" She asked. "I want them to look like your hand, your beautiful hand, black and delicate and sinister."

I nodded, as mute and dumb as ever.

"And a matching arm?"

I put my arms around her again, checking her, feeling under her coat and hoping that I had misheard her, hoping that I was wrong. The sling her arm was in was empty. The sling was just holding the stump of her arm to her side. The rest of it had been amputated above the elbow.

####

She told me all the details as I tucked her into her hotel bed and lay down next to her. It was a simple financial transaction to her. There was a well established market for human tissue, organs and limbs. Donor transplants were much easier and relatively cheaper than the high price of cloning. The flight to Brazil, the amputation, all paid for by a private clinic and a wealthy recipient. This is how she made her money and paid her way, selling herself piece by piece, a kidney here, a knee joint there, sinew, muscle and bone at top market value.

It wasn't just about the money.

"You'll make me a new arm, won't you, Claudia?" she whispered as she fell asleep under a heavy blanket of pain killers. "You'll make it better than the real thing."

I cried for a long time with her senseless at my side. I wept for her, for everything she was willing to give up and I wept for myself, for the things I wouldn't, for the things I couldn't. Then I left her hotel room while she still slept and called her father.

####

They let me watch the printer as it laid down the matrix that would eventually become the bones of my new hand. It was so much like the printer in my own workshop except this one printed living human tissue. My tissue.

My jaw hurt where they had removed my wisdom teeth to make the stem cells. It would take two months to grow the cloned hand. I would have that long to relive my time with Lumi, to replay the recorded data of sensation from my clever artificial hand.

She left without saying goodbye. She unfriended me and locked me out of her online existence. She didn't answer my phone calls or my e-mails. All I had left was the ghost touch of her, the digital echo of the warmth and softness of her skin. I play it back constantly, obsessively, through the cable to my wrist socket as I try to sleep at night. I will give up even that to finally be whole.

THE END


© 2012 I. Verse

Bio: I.Verse is a small dog with a big attitude problem. He enjoys long walks, chasing rabbits and writing speculative fiction short stories. He is a member of the Ely Writer's Group. "I." has won the Forum Flash Challenge four(!) times, including back-to-back wins in June and July of this year; the quality of this piece shows you why.

E-mail: I. Verse

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