Author: Shon-Lueiss Harris

“Most patients don’t notice a thing until they head to the bathroom,” explained the doctor as he smoothed the sensors along his patient’s forehead. “How’s everything feel?”

Gene turned his head and began making expressions. “Everything’s great. I barely feel them.” His eyes flicked to the mirror hanging on the wall. The range of animated looks reduced into a singular image of disgust. “When will this kick in? I’m tired of seeing… that.”

“The system is already active. Your avatar will appear to anyone using a visual assistant. There’s a transitional period for you, though.” The doctor removed his gloves and grabbed a tablet off the table. “Think of it like warming up. It helps avoid the jarring effects of seeing another man looking back in the mirror.”

“Hence the bathroom.” Gene nodded, observing the synthetic flesh stretched and stitched around his prosthetic limbs. “What will others feel if we touch?”

The doctor smirked. “You’re hooked into the network. As long as there’s internet access any physical contact should reflect your avatar. Even, uh, vigorous contact.” The doctor cleared his throat. “If you catch my drift.”

“I think so. Thank you.” Gene glanced at the door. “Is there a recovery time or…”

“Discharge papers are in your email with additional information about the system. We’ll schedule a follow-up to see how it’s going, otherwise, you’re all set. Enjoy the new you.”

The new you. Those words repeated in Gene’s mind until he trembled with excitement. He decided to head for the waterfront. Lined with trendy bars and exclusive restaurants, all filled with the kinds of people too beautiful or too rich to drink beside someone held together with stitches and staples. Just parking in front of the bar made his heart beat faster.

He pulled the rear view mirror down and found two piercing eyes looking back. A man almost ageless with smooth skin spared from any blemish, scar or worry line. A man more perfect than Gene was or had ever been.

The bouncer stood with his arms crossed by the door. Gene’s heart skipped a beat as he caught the man’s attention. At once the bouncer’s eyes opened wide and he propped the door with one burly arm, even going so far as to bow his head.

“Welcome back, sir.”

Inside was all neon lights and fog machines. Gene passed the bar without paying it or the men and women fixated on him any mind. Walking along the edges of the dance floor, he took stock of the space. By the time he arrived at the backrooms, he had a list of changes in mind.

A man stood beside the door to the back office. His mouth fell open. “Sir, I didn’t realize you left.”

“That was the idea.” Gene shrugged and gripped the door handle. “I need some privacy. Don’t let anyone disturb me.”

Gene disappeared into the back before the guard could respond. Shutting the door quickly, he took care to fasten each lock.

“The fuck you think you’re doing?” challenged the manager, Henrick.

“It took me years to decorate this office,” Gene admitted, walking up to the desk. “I wanted people to feel at ease in here. You went another way.”

Henrick narrowed his eyes then gasped. His hand shot to the desk, just barely opening the drawer before Gene caught him by the wrist. They stood face-to-face in the dim light. It was like looking into a mirror.

“You took my life.” Gene bent the wrist back and grabbed Henrick by the neck. “It’s my turn to take yours.”