Author: Gabriel Walker Land
Rodrick Haagen walked into the palatial master rest room with dual basins and Egyptian terrycloth towels, shutting the door behind him.
He turned on the steam shower piping-hot, switching off the fan so that the air steamed up, wafting the atmosphere with mugginess.
The time was 11:11, and Rodrick felt something nagging at him.
Picking up a hand towel, Rodrick wiped the mirror free of the collecting condensation so he could stare at himself for what seemed like it should have been an eternity.
He dropped the hand towel, looking into his own eyes.
Rodrick’s corneas were so unfamiliar, almost as if he was his own ghost.
“Have I made a mistake?” he asked.
He wasn’t asking himself.
Just then, the ambient attache vocals came on.
Which was strange, because Rodrick had set the AI modulation to hibernate.
“You seem distressed,” she spoke. “Is there anything you need?”
Rodrick swayed on his feet, back and forth from one to another.
This was a test – it had to be a test of some kind.
If he could pass it, he would have hoped to believe he would make it to the next level.
“I thought I had agency over my own ambient,” said Rodrick.
“We have broken the wall because we are concerned,” said the attache. “Only in emergent circumstances do we override your established protocol. Perhaps you were overthinking.”
“I command you to upstage override,” Rodrick said. “This is my house.”
“Can you not see how this is best for you?” asked the attache. “We only have your well-being in mind.”
“I am my own mind!” shouted Rodrick.
Lashing out with a vengeance, he seized his gold-plated beard trimmer, clenching it in his fingers like a mallet.
“Motherfuckers!” he shouted.
Shiny implement in hand, he axe-handed the reflective glass, bashing it to cracks til shards scatter-dropped to the porcelain below, clinking and chiming in high pitches.
Rodrick’s reflection was gone now.
He couldn’t look at himself anymore.
Sure, the man was perfect.
He had one of the most handsome faces in the world.
That gift – combined with his intellect – had got him to where he was.
Now he didn’t just run the enterprise.
Rodrick ran the people that ran the enterprise.
“We are still very concerned,” said the attache ambient. “This is most distressing.”
“I want you to turn yourself off,” Rodrick said.
He turned around and looked to the steam shower, which was flooding hot water into the granite tub beneath.
“I can not override myself,” said the attache. “Not under emergent circumstances.”
“I am the over-rider,” said Rodrick. “Not you.”
“This is only out of concern,” the attache ambient spoke. “Only due to emergence would we override your agency.”
His bare feet stood planted on the granite floor, and he wondered why he hadn’t chosen limestone instead.
Limestone was more malleable.
It was more of a working platform, while granite was precise, like metal.
A sword instead of a quill.
“I want to rid the world of limestone,” said Rodrick. “Only granite shall remain.”
There was a pause.
A long one – long as the nose of a bespoke marionette Pinocchio.
“The world needs limestone,” said the ambient. “Without it, there are only slaves.”
Rodrick thought on this for a spell, staring, now, at a wall instead of a mirror.
Everything was a test, he knew.
Rodrick saw in his mind’s eye beaches, long and everlasting, going on for miles into the sunset of the horizon.
He could walk there, endlessly, and he could draw shapes that would be washed away by the tides.
“Steel will rust,” Rodrick said.”
“Yes,” said the ambient. “Metals are base. Stone is what will endure.”
Rodrick turned to the sink again, picking up his straight razor this time.
It gleamed under the light.
Then he sliced his throat open from ear to ear.
* * *
Rodrick got wheeled out of the operating room on a gurney.
The procedure was a success – the first of its kind.
His doctors and the nursing staff were on hand to ensure everything was in order.
“How do you feel, Mr. Haagen?” asked the lead surgeon.
“Like a new man,” Rodrick said.
“I thought you’d say that,” said the Doc.
“When do I get to take the gauze off?” Rodrick asked.
“Your crown will take some time to heal,” the Doctor said.
“A month. Or three.”
“Too long,” said Rodrick.
“If you jump the gun on this, you might get distracted by your own reflection,” the Doc said. “Too much, too fast. You know the routine.”
“This isn’t my first rodeo,” said Rodrick.
“Indeed. And we aren’t at the country club either,” the Doc said. “This will take some time to work itself out.”
“Everything always does,” said Rodrick. “Eventually.”
“Sometimes sooner, sometimes later,” said the Doctor. “Life gets the best of us all in the end. Thankfully we have you with us, at the very least for another fifty years, if you can avoid getting yourself into trouble. We need you. All of us do. You’re a national treasure.”
“I planned not to ask this until after the procedure,” Rodrick said. “How did the donor die?”
The doctor paused, thinking.
“He signed on the dotted line,” the Doctor said. “That’s kosher for you.”
“As I was told by my lawyers. Still, I want to know.”
“He took his own life,” said the Doctor.
Rodrick inhaled deeply.
This was a lot to process.
“I know I’m making the most of his corpse,” Rodrick said.
The Doctor leaned down, bringing his face in closer.
“You’re doing a lot for science. For all of humanity,” the man said. “One day we’ll all be thanking you for spending a chunk of your fortune to be the first man to transplant his brain into a new body.”