Author : Jeff Deignan

Let me tell you a ghost story.

I see my sister every day, while she eats and sleeps through the minutes and hours. She walks, she talks- but never to me. The cold, white rooms always seem to threaten to swallow her as she traipses about, and me as I sit and listen through the one-way mirror. To hear her voice, one would think that nothing was wrong, and that at one o’clock all was well.

I live in an apartment, in the Ashland complex just west of town. She lived on campus, before an overcast Tuesday. Elena, my sister, drove to the store around that time for some little groceries, even though the fridge was nearly full. The accident didn’t hurt her much, either, and I can only imagine what went on in her head as she and I rolled through the air in her little foreign car.

They got me back after a few tries, some surgery, and a coma. But my sister always insists that I’m in the ground, dead and gone. Elena hasn’t responded to a single thing I’ve said since that day. And she insists to this day that I’m dead, that the bionics and machinery that keep me living, working, never brought me back after my heart stopped. Elena only talks to the ghosts in her room now, a faux family minus me.

So riddle me this: who’s the more haunted, this machine or her mind?

This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows
365 Tomorrows Merchandise: The 365 Tomorrows Store
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow

It Comes In Waves

Marco can leave the hospital bed, and for that, he is grateful. His balance is unsteady, but with a cane and time, he should be able to get around much the same way he used to. Dana smiles when he moves his hand to touch her cheek, the way she did for him for so long, and, that makes him smile in return. Marco wishes, however, that he could feel her face when he touches it.

His titanium and plastic fingers are flexible , and Marco has been told that they give him 90% of his original range of dexterity. Which was a hundred-percent improvement from before, when the accident had left him numb from the waist down. He knows he is gripping a glass of water due to the weight and texture and resistance his new fingertips sense and he recognizes now the way those sensors tell him the glass is wet with condensation. But he cannot feel it. It’s not the same as being in the hospital bed, but it’s not the same as before he was forced into it either.

Most frustrating, sex is out of the question.

Marco spends a great deal of time on the beach, watching the teenagers splash in the surf, showing off their developing bodies. He watches them laugh and amble about, unused to larger hips or feet. Marco watches the games they play, the ones from their childhood and the games they will continue into adulthood.

One day, Marco is surprised to feel weight and pressure against his back, and when he turns his head, he sees Dana leaning against him. She has a lazy smile on her face. “Are you comfortable? I must be pretty cold…” “Oh, I’m fine,” she says, and snuggles herself in the crook of Marco’s plastic elbow. “You out watching the jailbait, you perv?”

“No, I’m just…I don’t know what I’m doing.” “I like watching the waves break,” Dana says. “The way they crash and slip back. The way they reform.”

“I’m not a wave,” Marco says.

“No, you’re not. But I love you just the same.” Marco feels the pressure of Dana’s arms around his neck, and he touches her arms with his fingers, taking in the texture of the fine hairs on her arm, the rhythm of her pulse. He feels pressure on the side of his face, and when he touches it, his fingertips tell him his cheek was wet.

“You kissed me.”

“Well , I’ll be,” Dana says, her eyes sparkling. “Even a man in a prosthetic body can blush.”


You remember when Billy first went into space, don’t you? First time one of those crazy rockets of his went off with him in it. First time he sent up the big rocket, not those little ones with the sensors made of old cell-phones and other garbage. Chuck always said he’d send up Chairman Meow, or Mr. Catkins, or Daisy’s kitten Cindy next, but he didn’t. Billy went up immediately, soon as he knew as he could.

You hear what Daisy said? She was just in here, you just missed her. Billy calls her now and then. Only one from round here, ‘spect. She told me Billy says the Jupiter colony wasn’t gonna work by the end of next year. Called it the biggest failure of his life.

Daisy’s doin’ well. Says her VD’s cleared up clear as day, and she gonna get back to work. That boy of hers is gettin’ tall. She made a joke about how someone needs to market a daycare for prostitutes. That’s Daisy for you. Always got a sense of humor.

She made some joke about Billy; can’t remember what it was.

Remember how Chuck broke Billy’s arm soon as he came down? Billy told everyone it was from re-entry, but a bunch of us saw him crawl out of that craft using both arms after landing. You saw it was Chuck, didn’t you? Slammed Billy up against the wall, kicked him in the stomach, spat in his face. We all did a bit of that, but Chuck broke Billy’s arm, make no mistake.

You seen Chuck recently? He looks good. He’s serious about quitting this time. Ever since that last binge, he’s been serious. You know, the one he pawned his prosthetic leg to finance. You said he’d be clean after losing that leg in that car accident, but he proved you wrong, eh? But he’s serious now, he said so.

Still hard to believe Billy went, ain’t it? Even after we all saw him, saw that rocket made of junk and debris took off into the sky? No one thought it would, despite what Billy told us about super-dense material and reverse-gravity fields an all that other hoodoo he’d spout. But there it went, rocketing into the sky, out of Filt Street, out of Sporboro, out of the goddamn state and country and world.

Anyways, here’s the usual; you’re still one of the best customers here, even after what happened to your throat. It’s amazing you can get enemas to work like that for you. Bottoms up! Ha! See you next week! The wine’ll be restocked!

What was that joke about Billy…

Growing Pains

The locksmith knelt down to examine the mangled keyhole in Exetor’s office door. He turned his head and raised a brow at the man seated behind the desk, who was typing with twelve fingers and paying little attention to the tradesman. “So uh, how did this happen?”

A grumble came from the broad-shouldered man at the desk, “I was in a hurry, all right? Haven’t you ever broken something while in a hurry?” Exetor said before reading the words ‘Bionic Locksmith’ on the back of the tradesman’s uniform. “Oh… I guess you haven’t.”

Exetor felt weird in his office, talking to thirteen people on the transmitter in his brain and watching his door being fixed. The scene was a bit awkward with silence, so he sat up and decided to be nice for once. “So, are you natural born or implanted?”

“Excuse me?” The locksmith turned his head with a look of surprise on his face and annoyance at being distracted from his job.

“I mean, are you born or implant? Not a hard question… wait, you’re not one of those liberal bionics, are ya?”

Even though Exetor was digging himself into a bigger hole, the man just toyed with the rim of his hat and went back to examining the lock. “Born with it.”

“Ah, that’s cool. I’m an implant myself. Yes, these babies cost me a pretty credit.” He held up his hands, wiggling all twelve fingers. The glint in Exetor’s eyes changed constantly with the numerous moods he was forced into due to the numerous conversations, but he kept a smile for the locksmith. “The transmitter and the language translator were both in-grown after the process.”

“Yeah, well, you do something long enough…” The locksmith started, as his eyes narrowed to better see inside the lock.

Exetor interrupted again, “That’s what they say, isn’t it? Do something long enough and it adjusts for you? I’m surprised the nano-people haven’t made it into an ad campaign.” He rubbed his chin, considering the money one would make from such an endeavor. His guest remained silent. The locksmith was beginning to regret working for the big wigs.

“You know, man… I hear that if a bionic nympho goes at it long enough, her thing starts to-“

“Whoa!” The tradesman had heard enough and set a solid glare with huge pupils towards Exetor as a look of disgust etched itself across his features. “Look, buddy. I’m here to see if I can fix the door and get you a new key. I don’t need to hear your theories about sex and bionics.”

The businessman frowned then shrugged and went back to rapid typing. His eyes already transfixed on the business going by at alarming speeds displayed on the screen.

With a sigh, the man at the door stood back up and started putting away his tools; he put on a pair of shades. “I’ll grow a key for you by tomorrow. It’ll be my ring finger so it’ll cost you a bit more.”

Hand And Fist

Ossie was on the subway, thinking about getting his hand redone,when it started. He was gently touching the worn mahogany with the still-fleshy fingertips of his left hand, still amazed at the way the circuitry was so completely hidden behind his wooden knuckles. He hadn’t had it refinished since he lost it in the war. He just hadn’t given it much thought.

That wasn’t true. He had given it thought. He thought about it whenever he missed the feeling of having a right hand. And he thought about it whenever he felt like less than a whole man because of it.

Ossie remembered his niece had showing up at the family barbeque last weekend, her leg all redone. She had lost it in a car accident a few years ago, and had taken to wearing long skirts and pants even in the hottest days. Not so at the cook-out, though. Ossie pictured her with her plate of potato salad, two matching legs pouring out of itty-bitty shorts. Only upon close inspection could you tell the difference between the creamy brown rubber and what was left of her thigh. Ossie
couldn’t even tell, and he looked.

Her boyfriend even said he couldn’t feel the difference, but Ossie had never put much stock in that boy.

Ossie was on the subway, thinking about latex skin and plastic nails when it started. He had noticed the girl who she had gotten on; it would have been hard not to. She must have weighed 300lbs, easy, Ossie had thought. When the girl removed her jacket in the stuffy subway car, and revealed an artfully-etched metallic arm, Ossie allowed that she probably weighed a great deal more than that.

Now the boy, the boy Ossie didn’t notice until he spoke.

“You best get your chrome ass out of my face,” the boy said. He said it quietly in a low, threatening tone. Perhaps too low, for the girl innocently felt the need to ask what he said. The boy repeated himself, loud enough for everyone in the car to hear.

“It’s not chrome,” she said, nervously trying to play the whole situation off. “Just my shoulder an on down my arm.”

“I don’t give a good goddamn. I don’t want your fat bionic ass in my sight!” The boy’s words were slurred by yellowed, broken teeth.

“There’s only so much space in here, and my stop–“

“Is coming up sooner than you think!” The boy pulled a pistol from behind his back, and pointed it at the girl and her fanciful left arm. He grinned as the entire subway car became very, very silent. “Yeah, that’s right. You think you all that with your fancy arm, and shit. But you ain’t nothing!”

Ossie recognized the gun as one of those newer models, that didn’t need bullets but shot some sort of energy instead. He had used a few of those in the war, and didn’t care much for them. Nor did he think much of those who preferred them. It was an intimidation weapon more than anything else.

“You don’t want to do that, son.” Ossie said, moving his wooden hand slowly toward the gun.

“Shut the hell up, Grandpa!” The boy was standing up now, posturing. Ossie rose slowly to meet him. “You think I won’t shoot your ass too?”

“Oh, I know you will. I know you will. I know boys like you. Knew ’em in the war. Thought a weapon would replace the courage they never had.” Ossie was not a young man anymore, but he was quicker than he looked, and had his prosthetic hand firmly over the gun’s nozzle before the boy had time to react. Ossie’s palm was jammed tight against the energy port. “Trouble is, only works against people who’d never do you any harm in the first place. I’m not afraid of you, boy.”

“What the hell is your problem, old man?” the boy tried to wrench the gun away, but only succeed in slightly scratching Ossie’s vice-like mahogany fingers.

“Losing your cool? That gun’s not enough, is it? You’re gonna have to fire it, you wanna keep that fear around you. Better
fire it. Squeeze the trigger, boy. Squeeze it. Goddamn, you better pull that trigger, or you’ll have to hear about how an old man took your gun away from you! Squeeze it! Don’t tell me you pulled out a gun like this and didn’t intend to fire! You better–!”

And then boy did.

Ossie was on the subway, thinking about what it would be like to have a soft, pliable hand again when it happened. The energy released by the pistol didn’t have anywhere to go but Ossie’s hand, and while it burned through the wood, all it did was short circuit the mechanism itself. The hand made as tight a fist as it could, crimping the barrel of the boy’s gun in its charred wooden fingers. The boy was blinded by the discharge, and blinking as he was, certainly didn’t see the girl’s steel forearm impact with the side of his head. The girl thanked Ossie, but he would have none of it.

“But your poor hand!” she said. Ossie looked down at his burnt right hand, clenched in an arthritic fist, the pistol sticking out like some sort of militaristic flower.

“It don’t matter. I was thinking about replacing it, anyway.”