This piece was the one that got the most revision during my Fiction Workshop class. I worked on it a lot thanks to the help of classmates and friends. It’s the one that I can say is most complete, but a piece is never actually done so any advice is always appreciated.
Flex Your Fingers
Lee woke up, and flexed his fingers. Waking up after procedure was always a little disorientating, there was no real way of telling how long he had been unconscious, every new body was different. He curled his fist and dug his nails into his palms feeling the horrific sharpness of brand new nails. He wondered how many others had also gone down in the mission, and if Gracie accomplished it. He thought about Gracie and the mouth smiled.
At 18, the prospect of possible immortality fascinated him, he did not sleep for days after being chosen along with Gracie. “Flex your fingers,” came the order as soon he woke up for the first time. Lee didn’t think about it, he flexed his fingers.
“How did I do?”
“Brilliantly,” responded the same voice who had given the order.
Transference of consciousness into a new body that had been synthetically manufactured and modified to match his DNA and to resemble the original body had been the path to immortality. Agreeing to this procedure also meant he agreed to work for the global government. And now so many missions later his soul was starting to wear thin. Life was starting to drag on, and he thought there was nothing new left to experience. The body of a teenager was no longer supposed to be his body—he wondered what it was like to have wrinkles, to have your skin sag, to wake up to find gray hairs, and what it was like to find out you didn’t last in bed as long as you used to.
“Lights,” the florescent lights filled his room. He saw his closet to his right, packed with old clothes and gear entirely designed for his bodies. On his left, the door that led to the living room was ajar, on the couch a small figure, “who’s there?” he said, not able to get up. “Grace,” came the voice he loved more than anything in this world with the precision of the good soldier she was, his heart swelled.
“Gracie,” he muttered, and then he wished he hadn’t. He felt he had just tainted her name by saying it through these lips. He remembered the first time he woke up after the procedure, and the countless times after, she had always been there. How many bodies had he gone through already, he had lost count years ago. And right now, letting her see him and touching her was an insult.
He focused on his music box in the corner, his mother’s music box. She had given it to him before she died just before his first procedure. It didn’t work anymore. She had died of kidney failure and he had seen his father care for her—keeping her as comfortable as possible: sponge baths, doing her nails just to make her feel pretty, and dumping her waste whenever it was necessary. Refusal to lose Lee too, had brought his father to encourage him. But Lee had been the one to lose everything.
He moved his hands again, pulling away the perfectly tucked blanket from under him, but seeing his new nakedness was revolting. The desire to scratch off his flesh was overpowering, he thought that would be a decent use for those brand new heinous nails. His soul wanted to crawl out of this body, to pull away the flesh. Walking over to his closet he grabbed the oldest gear he could find, black pants with enough pockets to carry everything he could ever need, and a black long sleeve shirt. He dressed himself as quickly as he could—all except his shoes and his belt. All the while completely aware that his door was ajar and if Grace wanted to she could turn around. He walked using his new legs, tentatively taking every step to get to know the old carpet with the offensively new and clean soles. He thought he felt a limp— would that jeopardize future missions? The old carpet, he recalled spending hours on this carpet pressed against Gracie. Rolled between the sheets, back then the bodies had been home.
Gracie was the best of the original chosen. She had, through the years, left a lower body count. Battle instinct came naturally to her, and she quickly outranked him, becoming Captain while he remained her First. But he loved her still, she was the only thing Lee still had that made him feel normal. Sometimes they would argue like the old married couple they could have been, but were not allowed to become. Then they would fall on his bed, and somehow always end up on the carpet.
He skimmed his desk, picking up his music box and turned the key, the box whined and screeched. Trying its very hardest to play the lullaby it had once known. He almost dropped it completely sicken by the sight of these new hands handling something so precious to him. He noticed that one of his index fingers was bent a little wrong—that couldn’t be right.
He looked over at his door where Gracie sat with her back to him. He had loved her all his life. He stayed rooted where he was, staring at the door. This new body in which he lived was not his body, he despised it, wanting nothing more than to tear away his skin with his sharp nails. He took the chair from his desk and placed it directly under the ceiling fan.
He kicked the chair from under him and felt his neck snap. The familiar feeling of having the life sucked out of you filled him, and he relished it this time wishing he had not taken it for granted so many times before.
“LEE!” Gracie’s voice felt so far away. And he went blank.
Lee woke up, and flexed his fingers.