Reality’s bite


The first thing I thought when I heard my space suit rip was that Louise wouldn’t love me any more.

She couldn’t stand to look at a dead bird on the sidewalk or to feel a loose tooth in her mouth, so I knew she would hate a man who lost both legs

I came out to repair a sensor on the ship’s side and my suit light failed.

I should have gone back to the air lock and replaced the lamp, but I thought I could handle the repair without more than the external ship lights to guide me.

With the ship headed for a dangerous asteroid belt, we needed the sensor active.

I didn’t know the ship had already reached the outer ring of the belt and one of the random stones had struck the sensor, leaving a ragged tear in the metal that caught my suit in the dark shadows.

My second thought hearing the rip and seeing the gauges go crazy on my helmet screen was that of death.

Maybe that might have been kinder since men who survive accidents of my kind stop being men in minds like Louise’s.

Cold rippled through me from the region of my legs, although I knew this came from nerves being cut off as the suit compartments shut off the leak area and clamps cut through my thighs to keep me from bleeding to death.

The sound of my scream echoed in my helmet, drawing distant replies from radio command inside the ship, they needing no voice confirmation for my accident.

“Help’s on its way,” a voice said.

I knew they would arrive too late.

Even modern science couldn’t restore the shriveled flesh and bone my legs had become, though when the rescue boat arrived, and the robotic arms dragged me into its shelter, the medics pretended like I was all right, assuring me my legs would be as good as new.

They would be new, grown in some laboratory’s dish, grafted onto my body and taught to listen to my mental commands.

But new is not the same as original. I had seen those who had similar grafting, those poor fools whose patriotic efforts had let them get lured into war where they came back like I was coming back.

As good as science was in creating look-a-like legs, the command sequences didn’t quite work the same. Some men handled the delays better than others, learning to walk the tight rope so that each step seemed almost normal.

Yet even if I could learn to walk as well as that, focusing my entire mind on making my motions imitate what had once come thoughtlessly, I knew it would not be enough. Louise would always notice. Louise would always see me as a dead bird on the sidewalk to be avoided, finding some other, whole man to take my place.

She wouldn’t mean to be mean.

How can she help feeling the way she feels?

How do I make myself over into a real when I know I’m not?



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