written by GX Barnett
This would be Mr. Prosser’s 981st doctor’s visit since the accident which, in a normal lifetime, would have seemed like far too many. Luckily for the now 388-year-old Arnold Prosser, these visits are now more akin to “tune-ups” than they are matters of life and death. As the first human to receive the combination of an artificial heart, cybernetic eye, pneumatic jaw, and prosthetic lung from one 43-hour surgery, he was world renown as a modern marvel. All the subsequent experimental upgrades since then have anointed him a savior to millions. It has been the only positive that came from the accident that had killed his beloved wife.
“A pleasure to see you again, Mr. Prosser,” Doctor Mulligan said, entering the office and snapping Arnold back into the moment, “How have the last six months been? Have the bio-taste enhancers been working accordingly? I remember you telling me that you haven't tasted a spice since your 95th birthday.” The only reason he wanted his taste back was to relive the flavor of the stone ground mustard that Nora had put on the ham and American cheese sandwiches she used to pack for him on their picnics.
Dr. Priyanka Mulligan had taken over as Arnold’s bio-genetic specialist at the beginning of the 25th century after his previous doctor, Martin Pujeh, retired at the age of 179, a personal recipient of many of the technologies perfected on his own patient. She was sweet, but officially young enough to have been born after the last of Arnold’s great-grandchildren had died. He admitted it was a strange milestone to acknowledge this, but at his age one must gauge the days important or be inundated by the procession of all the inconsequential ones. It was important to establish bygone important days with new different ones. For example, the day that his synthetic skin was grafted replaced his wedding anniversary to Nora. It had to.
“Yes,” Mr. Prosser lied, “Everything tastes delicious.” In truth, Arnold was overjoyed that his taste for spiciness had vanished. It had always upset his stomach something terribly and even though his gastrointestinal tract had been replaced and relined years before the taste would always cause phantom pains in his chemically recreated innards. Arnold didn’t miss the pain, but he had missed Nora going to the refrigerator in the middle of the night to get him a ginger ale. The little things.
Dr. Mulligan had rearranged Dr. Pujeh’s office in many notable and distressing ways. The most important change, however, was the changing of the seats in front of her desk. Martin had two seats in front of the desk. One for the patient. One for the spouse. Practical. Depressing. Priyanka had three chairs lined up. One for the patient and two more for whoever may or may not want to join them. Considerate. Depressing. He took the chair on the right. Nora always took the left anyway.
“Good, good,” Dr. Mulligan said absently, picking up Arnold’s chart and starting to study over it for the first time that day, a practice that he found rude. “Read the damn chart BEFORE I come in!” he thought, but was too well-mannered to announce. “So it seems your last neural scan was three weeks ago, and they upgraded your network with the latest operating system this morning... hmmm… Let me just check on something.” Mr. Prosser watched the doctor get up from behind her desk and exit the room on his right. As soon as she left Arnold audibly said, “That’s why you look at the chart BEFORE I get here.”
“Oh, be nice.”
Arnold heard that. Clear as day. Was Dr. Mulligan still there? He watched her leave. The door closed behind her. He was completely alone. The only other object in the room… was a picnic basket in the middle seat… which wasn’t there a moment ago...
“Mr. Prosser,” the doctor peeked her head in, “when was the last time you had an alcoholic beverage?”
“I had a Brandy Alexander at my great-great-great granddaughter's retirement party last Wednesday.” Arnold said with ease as it was the first drink he was allowed to have in over half a century. “My nano-surgeon said I could drink in moderation, so I thought I’d give it a test run after it was installed that Monday.”
“... Interesting.” Dr. Mulligan said before darting her head back out.
“You big lush.”
This time Arnold turned his reconstructed neck with pinpoint accuracy toward the origin of the sound. There, in the seat on the far left, where he had always wished she was, was Nora. “Honestly, a Brandy Alexander? What are you? An old man?”
“How… How are you here? The accident, I haven’t seen you in…” Arnold would have started to cry had he remembered to properly lubricate his pseudo-glands like he had been instructed to do. There she was. His Nora.
“In about 350 years. Give or take.”
“But, how are you here now?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. But here I am.”
“I have some interesting news, Mr. Prosser.” Dr. Mulligan said, reentering the room, completely oblivious to the reunion in front of her. Arnold couldn’t bring his gaze away from his Nora, ignoring the doctor as she sat down in front of him. “It seems that as of this morning, you are now artificial, designating you the first person in history to establish a 100% conversion!” She said excitedly. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed any difference, but, as a special gift to you, your neural network has been upgraded to include a ‘euphoria’ setting. It’s the first of its kind and as I’m reading here you are the first test subject as a special gift for all that you’ve done for humanity.”
“What’s that?” Arnold asked, but he hadn’t been listening.