The man who murdered him.., p.2
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       The Man Who Murdered Himself: A Short Story, p.2
 

           Nancy Fulda
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  * * *

  Dr. Sorenson spent almost a year preparing to perform the replication. He first had to find a neurofibromatosis expert who was willing to work on the illegal project. Together they pored over Kyle’s X-rays, MRIs, tissue samples, and other medical records. They plotted, graphed, planned, and ran data through computer simulations of the replication process.

  Dr. Sorenson grew more and more excited as the day of replication drew nearer. Kyle, on the other hand, became increasingly withdrawn. He looked at his lumpy body in the mirror every morning with mounting hatred. He despised the hands folded in his lap, the nearly normal digits of the left hand eclipsed by the overgrown, distorted flesh of his right appendage.

  The way a convalescent loathes his wheelchair or an athlete resents his leg brace, Kyle despised his body. He imagined it was a cast, a repulsive outer shell waiting to be shucked off at the earliest convenience. He brooded over the approaching replication date. Each morning meant nothing to him except that there was one less night separating him from his liberation.

  He grew inefficient at work. His supervisor threatened to fire him, so he quit. He had already made plans to move, anyway. He would rent a condo in Florida or in New Mexico, somewhere far away from everyone who ever knew him, who ever knew he was disfigured. His friends would never know how he had changed; the government would never know. He would shuck off his name as he would shuck off his skin, and he would emerge as... someone else.

  And there it was — the heart of Kyle’s anxiety. Without his shell, without the bags and the tumors and the scars crisscrossing him like some perverted rendition of Frankenstein, who was he? He did not like to think about it. So he brooded and listened as the wall clock ticked off the seconds, the hours, the days.

  And then the day arrived. As he stared at the replicator’s scanning machine, Kyle thought it looked like nothing more than a blank wall with a person-sized hole in it. He climbed onto the sliding bed and looked sideways at the wall’s maw. Kyle tried to tell himself that this was nothing new, that it was like taking a CAT scan... except that he would stay there for at least three days. Kyle’s heart began to pound as Dr. Sorenson hooked him up to several machines. He flinched as the IV poked into his arm, even though he had grown used to such accoutrements long ago.

  “Everything feel all right?” Dr. Sorenson asked, “OK, then, lie down.”

  Kyle did, and the doctor released the clamp on the IV. “Remember,” he said, “the medication will inhibit your motor control. Don’t let it worry you. You’ll be conscious for only a few seconds after your full body functions stop. Just relax, feel the medicine seep in, and let it go....”

  Dr. Sorenson was still talking, but Kyle stopped paying attention. He felt the fluid from the IV running up his arm, half-tickling and half-burning as it passed. A few moments later he felt detached from his body. He could still feel, could still hear and see, but he had no control of his muscles. Like those lucid moments halfway between sleep and waking, he could sense the conscious world but could not interact with it.

  The feeling of disembodiment was frightening. Kyle began to panic, but forced himself to remember Dr. Sorenson’s patient explanation that the medicine was necessary, that his body must remain absolutely still during the scanning process. Only his brain would remain active, trapped in a state of semi-sleep that had no memory of time, so the machine could scan his brain patterns and replicate them along with the rest of his body.

  He felt his breathing stop and heard a slight buzz as a nearby machine took over the task of oxygenating his blood. Another machine began to pump the blood through his body as his heartbeat slowed to a stop. He felt himself drop into darkness.

  Kyle could not say how long he drifted like a man on the edge of sleep, sometimes floating to the top of his dream world but never quite escaping it. Eventually, the blank gray of the replicator’s scanning chamber was replaced by the white of a recovery room. Kyle’s eyes were half open, and he could just see the door from the corner of his eye.

  Sometimes Dr. Sorenson would enter through the door and check the status of the machines humming all around him. When that happened, Kyle tried to move. Most of the time he could not make his body obey, but occasionally he found that he could twitch his fingers, or swallow, or track Dr. Sorenson’s blue-clad form with his eyes.

  But one of these times, Dr. Sorenson entered the room followed by another person.

  “... not sure this is a good idea,” Dr. Sorenson was saying, his voice ringing clear in Kyle’s ears. Into the room came — Kyle.

  Kyle stared at the tall figure as if he were watching his reflection in some divine mirror. The hair was full, the face fully shaped, the right hand was small with the fingers separated. The man-who-was-not-him strutted into the room like a god, and stared in revulsion at Kyle, misshapen and motionless on the bed.

  The stranger with Kyle’s face looked at Kyle for a long time. Furious, Kyle tried to speak, to move, to ask what that impostor was doing parading around in the perfect body meant for him. He felt his lips open and close limply, but no sound emerged.

  The man-who-was-not-Kyle swallowed and turned pale. “Get rid of it,” he whispered. His voice sounded strangled. “Are you sure?” Dr. Sorenson asked. “I’d like to keep it for a few more days, until we’re sure you won’t develop unexpected complications. Besides, the research value—”

  With vengeful speed, the impostor slapped his hand against the respirator’s power switch. Lights flickered from green to amber. A warning buzzer sounded, followed by a faint click as an emergency backup system assumed the downed machine’s function. Annoyed, the impostor grabbed a mass of cables near the wall with both hands and pulled at them until the metal prongs popped from the power outlets.

  The shriek of rage that echoed through Kyle’s mind could not escape his lips. He wanted to strangle the impostor, the doctor who had betrayed him, God himself. His eyes squinted. His fingers twitched. But the other occupants of the room either did not see or did not wish to see.

  The man-who-was-not-Kyle stood, panting, as motors slowed, pumps stopped, and the warm hum of machinery faded to a cold silence. Then he tossed the dangling cables onto the floor and left the room. Dr. Sorenson sighed, shrugged, and followed the other man out the door, flipping off the light as he passed.

  Plunged into darkness, Kyle could not tell whether it was suffocation or rage that tore at his chest. And would never remember whether the trembling motion of his lips was meant to utter a prayer or a curse.

  ###

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  Nancy Fulda is a Phobos Award Winner, a Vera Hickley Mayhew Award Recipient, and a two-time WOTF Finalist. She holds a Master’s Degree from Brigham Young University, where she conducted research in artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Afterwards, she turned to the equally complex task of raising three small children. She tries to make each of them laugh at least once per day.

  https://www.nancyfulda.com

 
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