Brian's Short Stories

 Real Love


My government-issued brain-link disconnects and my awareness returns. I’m Aurora again. I toss
the link away, disgusted and despondent. I hate giving my mind to the world-computer. My love, Selina, however, always told me the importance of finding a solution to our flesh-burning atmosphere.
No one knew how it happened or why a few people were immune until an investigative journalist exposed the truth. A group of billionaires genetically modified themselves, then scorched the atmosphere. People died in the trillions. Now, these immune monsters rule, and they’re the only ones who can breathe fresh air or enjoy nature.
I slump, feeling defeated. What would it be like to hold Selina, to kiss her lips? I log into VR, and Selina appears, looking ragged. Her once beautiful smile is a shadow of itself. The truth hit her harder than me. I only plugged in for the money, but she believed in the propaganda. We kiss, but our virtual bodies feel nothing.
“I can’t stand being locked in this box anymore, Aurora,” she says. “I need to feel you.”
“It’s worse now, knowing there’s no hope.”
“I’m so depressed,” she says. “If only we could kiss.”
“I want nothing more, but hoping for the impossible is crushing.”
“What if I told you there’s a way?”
My breathing accelerates as I listen to what she discovered.

Later, I bask in nature, savoring it. Selina steps out of a car, and she’s even more beautiful than our magnificent sun. We embrace, and euphoria rushes through me. We kiss, our lips caressing in unbelievable joy. We’re finally connected fully.
Unfortunately, it won’t last. We inked a deal with a black-market billionaire, short-term genetic modification for our life-forces. As the drones come to harvest us, I hope we can keep kissing in the afterlife.

Recycled Humanity

Brian turns the wheel of his shiny, blue Rolls-Royce, and slides around a corner toward Naples. 
“Couldn’t you have driven one of your other cars?” asks his brother, Matt.
“But then I couldn’t rub in my victory over you. I knew Bitcoin would pop before silver.” 
“I can’t believe dad gave up his car for our bet.”
“He always knew how to motivate us to make money. Anyway, you have plenty now. Buy your own Rolls.” 
“That’s not the point. It’s sentimental because it was dad’s.” 
Brian pulls through a gate to park in his ten-car garage. 
“So, what did you want to talk about?” asks Matt. 
“The Quantum Recycler.” 
Matt rolls his eyes. “Forget about that and start coming to the clubs with me.” 
“I don’t have time for frivolity.” 
Brian types in a code, and steel doors slide open. They enter a room with various electrical equipment. Brian hands his brother an apple from the workbench.  
“Thanks, but I ate… Why are you smiling like that?”
“Look at the rest of the bag of apples.” 
Matt’s face scrunches. “Why do you have a bag of rotten apples?” 
“Remember what I mentioned the Quantum Recycler could do?”
He blinks. “You did it?”
Brian’s grin widens. 
“Oh my god. Really? How does it work?”
Brian indicates a gun-shaped object. “This device sends out nanobots that disassemble any material into its elements. Then, the nanobots can build anything from the raw materials. It’s how I turned a rotten apple into a fresh one.”
“Amazing. How does it know what to build?”
“With this,” says Brian, pointing to what looks like a body scanner. “It creates elemental patterns.” 
“I can’t even imagine the possibilities.” 
“Well... I got carried away and explored the possibilities. I need to show you something.”
Matt squints suspiciously. 
They walk to a door and pause. “Now, don’t freak out.” 
“I’m starting to freak out. What’s this about?”
“Just look.” Brian opens the door. 
Matt’s hazel eyes widen.
“Hey, Matt. Did Brian pick you up in the car we won? That was my idea.” 
Matt gapes at the identical copy of Brian. 
“Give us a minute,” says Brian to his copy, then shuts the door.
“Did you even think about the consequences?” asks Matt.
“I can’t stop thinking about it. I haven’t slept in two days.” 
“You created a human, who has no birth certificate, no driver’s license, no life.”
“It’ll be fine.”
“Do you think he has a soul? Or maybe it splits between you.”
Brian grimaces. “It’ll work out.” 


Two days later, Brian’s cell rings. “Hey, Matt.”
“How’s it going with your clone?” 
“It’s been great. He’s a cool guy, and we like all the same things. We even started planning new projects.”
“What’s your girlfriend going to think?”
“Who knows?” asks Brian. “He actually asked about her. It made me really uncomfortable.”
“He probably misses her. He does have all of your memories.”
“I’ll think of something.” 


Days later, Brian dials Matt, his hands shaking. “I need your help. Things are out of control.”
“What’s up?” 
“He thinks he’s the original. He stole dad’s Rolls-Royce. He got drunk and left it parked in the middle of a crosswalk in South Naples. He even visited, Rachel. Can you believe this? She told me it was the best night we’ve had in years.”
“Oh boy.”
“He’s taking over my life. Come over right now and help me.”


A half-hour later, Matt sits on the patio table. “It sounds bad.”
“He even got mad at me for seeing Rachel. If I don’t figure this out, he’ll completely replace me soon. It’s not fair for him to take over the life that I built. He’s not Brian. He’s an anomaly made by nanobots.”
“So what are you saying?”
“There was only one Brian before, and there should only be one now. We should recycle him.”
“Are you sure?” asks Matt.
Brian purses his lips, then nods. 
“I’m glad you think that,” says Brian as he steps out of the shadows, holding the recycler gun. “Because you’re the copy.”
“What? No,” says Brian. “Matt. You know it’s not true. He switched us. Don’t trust him.”
“Sorry, but you are the copy,” says Matt. “We set this up because we didn’t want to recycle you unless you agreed.” 
Brian points the gun and fires at his look-alike. 
The nanobots invade Brian’s pores, and a shock of pain rips through him.
“You have your life back,” says Matt.
Brian grins. He never should have made me. 

Don't Open your Box

I sit on a park bench. It's four in the morning. The moon is full and ghosts of trees surround me. I'm tired and uncomfortable. Hours ago, I snuck out of my house holding my box. I know my parents would be appalled at what I was contemplating, but I don't think I can take it anymore.
I look down at my box.
Plain, black.
I shake it for the thousandth time.
No sound. No Movement.
'Don't open it,' we were commanded since birth.
But why? Why did they even give us boxes in the first place? Everyone has a box. No one opens it.
Oh, there are rumors of kids who did, but no evidence. I could be the first. I could tell everyone and maybe they would finally like me.
I move my hand near the seal. It shakes a bit. No, I think and drop my hand.
We aren't supposed to open it. I shiver, thinking of our schoolteachers drilling us over and over, 'Don't open your box.'
I don't care anymore. My life is not good. No friends, no happiness.
I move again and split the seal, tears now rolling down my face. I don't know why.
I open it.
Nothing. Wait, no. A small piece of paper sits in one corner.
I pick it up.
'Bye, bye,' is all it reads.
I squint in confusion and look again. That's it?
I throw the box off me, angry, and disappointed.
I push off the bench to stand. My legs wobble, and I fall on the grass.
I feel weak, and my body tingles. I look down at my feet and go from confused to horrified instantly.
My feet are gone. Just gone. I'm not bleeding, but my legs begin to fade as well.
I flail my arms and scream, but there is no one around. My legs are completely gone now. I'm in a state of full panic as my stomach starts to disappear.
My eyes dart over to the box, but it's gone.
I go limp, no longer able to control what's left of me and remember the command, 'don't open your box.'
But I did... 

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