Artificial, p.1Jason Phillips / Thrillers & Crime
By: Jason Phillips
Copyright © 2014 Jason Phillips
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I sat there just staring at it; it was a deep metallic blue, the lights of green and red blinking back at me. I was transfixed by this object before me…I reached out to touch this strange thing before me, it was cold to my fingers as they glided across the smooth steel.
This is my new reality, my name is Anton Splendor and I had become an amputee, I stretched out my good right leg and felt the smooth cool texture of the wood under my toes. I went to repeat the process with my new leg the machine groaned as it lurched forward, protesting as the electronic motors interpreted the signals sent from my brain to the on-board computer, the artificial intelligence was quick to respond.
The rubber foot hit the wood floor with a definite thud as it made contact. I could feel the vibrations as they traveled through the rubber…only slightly dulled, up my synthetic leg and made their way to my spine. Where my brain instantly interpreted them as the sense of touch or at least a very good approximation of it; I then hosted myself off the chair I was on and stood up, the synthetics knee groaned as it supported my weight as I stood up from the chair.
I took a few small steps at first…the machine slowly lurched along as I lifted my leg at each step, I made my way from the kitchen table where I had been sitting over to the fridge.
I looked at the picture of me for a moment; it was held to the fridge by a flimsy magnet I had bought at the dollar store; it depicted me with both my organic legs prior to my accident. I was s standing beside a BBQ in the summer wearing my black shorts and white shirt; I had a large smile on my face. I reached over and felt the synthetic knew bend as I hunched forward to grab the picture off the fridge. I took it in my hand and gazed at it longingly…
“Those were better days.” I lamented, I looked down past the picture at my artificial leg, the blue metal shone brightly as it reflected the sunlight steaming in from the window. I put the picture back on the fridge, and then turned around to face my small kitchen. It had been 6 months since my accident, and I had only had the new leg for roughly 4 weeks or so. I suppose the lack of what the doctor referred to as phantom pain gave me some comfort, albeit…not much.
I remember the accident like it was yesterday, the memory was a crystal clear…it had never faded or dulled in anyway…it haunted me in my dreams…
I had celebrated my 20th birthday a few days prior…not much older than I am now, although such an event has aged me well beyond my years. I had been out for a Sunday drive, the weather was warm, the sun hot as it beamed down on me, as I sped down the street in my convertible it was 3:30 in the afternoon and I was headed wherever the road would take me.
I have always considered myself to be a diligent driver….observant of everything that crosses my field of vision.
But on this fateful day, I guess I was not as observant as I claim to be, or perhaps I’m allowing self pity to cloud my judgment, either way that was the day I got into the worst car wreck of my life.
I was sitting at the intersection waiting for the light to turn green; I looked down only briefly to check the time. I had moved the car out just barley in the oncoming lane. I looked up…but it was too late I saw the truck barreling down on me; I had no time to react…
I woke up, the first image I saw was nothing but a blurry haze…like a half remembered dream.
My body felt heavy, as if it weighted a thousand pounds…little by little clarity started to enter into my brain, my vision became clearer as my surrounding were revealed to me. I was lying in a hospital bed with tubes of all sorts coming into and out of my body; I ached from head to toe.
Standing above me was a nurse; she looked down at me with a concerned look on her face. She smiled at me as she saw me open my eyes. Even opening my eye lids felt like a chore…”what the hell had happened to me?” I pondered silently
“Ah, good, you have awoken Mr. Splendor.” She said calmly “How are you feeling today?”
I tried to get up, but I couldn’t…to move seemed like impossibility at that point.
“Where am I?” I managed to sputter out. As the weight of my body sent it tumbling back to the bed, something had happened to me, but my memory was nothing but a fuzzy blur.
“You’re in the hospital, I’m afraid you were in a car accident.” The nurse replied somewhat grimly
I looked at her through hazy eyes; she had a look of concern mixed with sorrow on her face. I could tell something was wrong, but I could not tell what. That’s when I felt it…something about me was different, something had changed…
Alarmed; I mustered all the strength I could and forced myself in an upright position, the nurse look worried as I hosted myself up. I then threw back the blankets that had been covering me.
That’s when the totality of my situation came brutally and swiftly down upon me; I looked down at my legs, my right leg was covered in bandages and my left leg….all that remained was a blood soaked bandaged stump…my left leg was gone. I was mortified and screamed at the sight before me.
The nurse placed her hand on my shoulder and tried in vain to console me; but it was of little help. I had not been fully prepared for the shock that awaited me.
The nurse again tried to console me…my screams were stifled by silence…to be replaced by a quiet ominous gaze down at where my leg had been. The reality slowly started to sink in…
“How…how did this happen?” I gasped in horror still looking at the stump before me…still clinging to the vague deception that I was somehow dreaming.
The nurse pulled up a chair alongside my bed and sat down, I looked over at her; my eyes met hers; I was looking for answers. For some sign that indeed I was dreaming….She took my hand in hers trying to relieve my beleaguered senses. Her eyes never left mine and she continued to speak softly.
“You were in a car accident 3 days ago Mr. Splendor, you were severely wounded; and the only way to save your life was to amputate your left leg; I know this must come as a real shock to you.”
“That’s putting it mildly.” I quipped
She smiled at my sarcastic remark. “At least you still have your sense of humor Mr. Splendor.”
She took her hand from mine and placed it on the arm of the chair.
“Please; call me Anton.” I hated being called Mr. Splendor…something about it seemed so…old.
“As you wish Anton” She replied
My thoughts started to drift and meander; I could hear a familiar ringing sound but could not pinpoint where it as coming from. Suddenly I was jarred from my recollections when I figured out where the sound was coming from…it was the phone sitting on my kitchen table. I turned my attention away from the fridge and walked back over to the kitchen table and picked up the phone to answer it.
“Hello?” I said somewhat startled by the interruption.
“Hey Anton, How’s it going?” it was Larry Templeton my best friend.
“Hey Larry; I’m fine; How’s it going today?” I asked
“I’m doing well; all things considered Anton…Are we still on for lunch today?” I had completely forgotten about the lunch plans I had made with Larry.
“Oh…of course” I said; not trying to sound confused about completely forgetting my lunch plans.
“Good Anton; I’m glad to hear it…How about I pick you up in 20 minutes?”
“Sounds good Larry…I’ll see you soon.” With that I hung up the phone then proceed to make my way to my bedroom to prepare for my outing this afternoon.
Larry pulled the car into the parking lot and found a spot close to the entrance. We parked and he turned off the engine. I then got out of the car; I still didn’t have the confidence yet to begin driving on my own again, the last time I sat in the driver’s seat of a vehicle after my accident the moment I touched the steering wheel my hands started to shake uncontrollably …it was still to nerve racking a task to begin even contemplating at this point in my life.
We slowly made our way from Larry’s car towards the entrance to the restaurant; Larry held the door open for me as I shuffled my way indoors. He quickly followed behind me, we have come here rather often after my accident, and it had become almost a weekly ritual of sorts. We took our usual seat at the far end of the restaurant.
“Good afternoon gentlemen!” the waitress greeted us with a polite smile. It was Michelle; she too had become somewhat of a regular in my life; she had taken interest in me after my accident…I could not figure out if it was just sheer pity or general interest…personally, I was leaning towards a greater level of interest. But I could not shake the feeling that I had seen her before, although I could not recall where…
“How are you two doing on this fine sunny day?” She asked as she placed our menus on the table.
“Well you know Anton; Michelle…forgetful as ever.” He jested towards me.
“I sure do Larry.” She smiled at me and gave a small wink as she filled the water glasses on the table.
“Will you gentlemen be having your usual?” She asked as she removed her pen and pad from the front pocket of her uniform.
“Yes.” We both said in unison; “Great!” she exclaimed as she quickly put the pad of paper and pen back in her pocket.
“I’ll be back with your beverages in a minute.” And with that she turned and quickly walked away, but not before turning her head and smiling at me as she left.
“Dude; I think that Michelle has a thing for you!” Larry said, his thin face lit up from the prospect of setting me up on a date, he had been suggesting it for weeks now…and each time he had, I had shied away from the idea…I didn’t feel right about it, I guess because I didn’t feel ‘whole’ enough to ask her.
I had to admit thought; Michelle was rather attractive, she was about my height, with long brown hair that cascaded down her back, bright green eyes and ruby red lips.
To say that I had suffered some small loss of confidence since the accident was an understatement.
Not only had the loss of my leg impaired my mobility, it had also impaired my self esteem and self worth….I felt as if I had not only lost a limb, but a piece of my soul as well…
Michelle quickly returned with our drinks, she smiled at me as she gingerly placed the glasses on the table. Larry kicked me in my synthetic leg from under the table; I could feel the vibrations as they raced through the metal casing and up my spine. I then looked at him, he tried to hide a small smile…but I could see the corners of his lips slightly upturned, he was trying to nudge me to ask Michelle out on date. So I returned his small kick with one of my own, and the smile on his face faded and was replaced with a small wince and a look of pain.
Along with the artificial leg I had also been implanted with a neural interface that allowed me to control my prosthetic just like a flesh and blood limb. It worked by analyzing and interpreting the signals in my brain then sending that information to the artificial intelligence which in turn interpreted the signals as ‘movement’.
Larry’s expression then changed and a small smile crossed his lips, he then quickly got up from the table as Michelle was still standing there. “Excuse me, but I have to use the washroom.” he dashed off in the direction of the lavatory.
Michelle sat down at the vacant seat, “So Anton, how have you been these last few weeks? I know it’s been rough for you since your accident and everything.”
“I have been good Michelle.” I replied with a nervous smile.
“Well that’s good Anton. I’m really glad to hear It.” she had placed her hands on the table out in front of her and leaned in towards my general direction.
“Michelle, there has been something I have been meaning to ask you for some time now…” I paused as a wave of anxiety struck me and my voice cracked.
“Have you ever experienced déjà vu?” I kicked myself lightly under the table, that was defiantly not what I had intended to ask her… I was stalling for time.
“Déjà vu?” she replied surprised, her eyes sunk and looked down at the table between us. I could tell that it was not the question she was hoping for.
She looked back up at me as her fingers played nervously with the napkin. “I think I have now that you mention it. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, no reason Just one of those quirky things I suppose.” I lied, and I better hurry up and ask her…Larry was not going to wait in the washroom all day.
“Michelle?” I decided to stop wasting time and making excuses and just ask her out.
“Yes Anton?” her eyes got wide as she waited eagerly for me to ask the obvious question…
“Would you like to go out with me sometime?” I paused almost abruptly, somewhat startled by the seriousness in my tone.
Michelle blushed and her eyes focused solely on me…her lips curled upward and formed a large smile, her white teeth almost shining.
“Of course I would Anton; I have seen you come in her almost weekly for months. I was secretly hoping that you would ask me a long time ago. But I thought you would be nervous due to your accident and everything.” She then sat up straight in her seat; her smile never faded or ebbed.
“I think you’re in my seat miss.” We both turned around as a familiar voice spoke, it was Larry back from his washroom break. He stood beside us with a mischievous grin on his face.
“I’m sorry Larry; I should be getting back to work anyway.” Michelle quickly got up from the table and towards the kitchen to fetch customers orders.
Larry then took his empty seat; he sat firmly a cross from me. His hands clasped in front of him and the large smile still glued to his face. “So…did you ask her?”
I was reluctant to answer; either from embarrassment or nervousness, I could not figure out which.
“Yes. I did.” I finally answered.
“And…what did she say?” Larry asked his voice had grown with excitement.
“She said yes.” I replied, still somewhat in shock at the fact that I had the courage to even ask her.
Michelle returned shortly with our orders. We eat mostly in silence. Larry giving me little nods and grins every time Michelle walked by our table. I still could not believe that I had summoned what little strength I had, maybe I had under estimated myself after all.
I sat in my living room, it was around 8:00 pm when the door bell rang; I slowly got to my feet. Over the last few months walking with the synthetic leg had become easier and easier. It almost felt natural now, with each step I took the feedback from the neural interface had become so integrated with the artificial intelligence, that my synthetic leg almost felt more real than my original flesh and blood one.
The motors in the knee and ankle seamlessly moved along in tandem with my good leg as I headed towards the door. The door bell rang again…so I quickened my pace. I arrived at the door and grabbed the handle and gently turned the knob to open the door.
It was Michelle she had arrived right on time for our date; we had been going out these last few months without a hitch…well almost, every time I had asked her about her family she remained eerily silent on the subject…not to mention that strange sense of déjà vu, I could have sworn that I had seen her prior to meeting her at the restaurant, but I dismissed those thoughts as sheer paranoia.
“Good evening sweetie.” She said in her usual enthusiastic manner as she stepped inside.
“How are you doing tonight?” she asked as she embraced me in a hug.
“I’m fine Michelle, are you ready for our date tonight?” I asked
“I sure am I have been looking forward to this movie for weeks now, how about you?” she asked me, we made our way back to my couch and sat down.
“Good.” I replied “Just let me go upstairs and finished getting dressed then we can be off.”
“Excellent idea Anton” Michelle replied.
We slowly made our way out of the theatre; it was around 10:30 pm the movie had been enjoyable albeit slightly dry during some parts, Michelle seemed to like it a little more than I did. But I must admit I have never been one for comedy’s….but that’s OK because it made Michelle happy. And that’s all that mattered.
As Michelle and I got back in Michelle’s car I noticed her demeanor change slightly. She seemed preoccupied about something.
She sat in the driver’s seat looking off into space….I looked over at her.
“What’s wrong with you tonight?” I asked her concerned.
She looked over at me and smiled nervously…
“Oh, nothing Anton, it’s just that…” she paused.
“What is it?” I asked again, my concern growing with every passing second.
She then started the engine and we started to drive back to my house, we drove in silence. I did not feel like pressing her on the issue no matter what it was, if she did not want to talk about it with me, I’m sure that she would tell me when she was ready.
We go back to my house and she stopped the car in front of my house. She then turned off the car and looked over at me.
“I think I should tell you what has been bothering me all night, I’m sure that you have been wondering about that yourself.” She looked at me with a slightly grim look on her face.
I said nothing as I sat across from her in the car, hesitantly waiting on what she was going to say.
“I have to pick up my brother tomorrow…”
“Oh, that’s all.” I said jesting “Here I thought it was something serious!”
She continued, her gaze never leaving mine.
“I have to pick him up from prison.”
She had never mentioned about having a brother, let alone a brother in prison.
Artificial by Jason Phillips / Thrillers & Crime have rating 3.3 out of 5 / Based on20 votes