BY BILL WANG
The following piece received 2nd place in the Writing (Clinical) section of The Auricle’s 2021 Writing and Visual Art Competition and is responding to the prompt “the pursuit of knowledge is a quintessential part of medicine, but the benefits and risks sometimes balance treacherously“
Congratulations Citizen 2077, you have been chosen to take part in the latest ground-breaking trial of the century. The sacrifice you make to science today will elevate us all into the future. Now for the next name in the draw…
The newscaster warbled on, its words fading into the background of Citizen 2077’s mind as the world seemingly unfolded around him. He grabbed the countertop to steady himself, the room spinning around him as his vision seemed to narrow to pinpoints, casting the rest of the room into darkness. He forced himself to look back at the screen as the newscaster began finishing up the morning reports.
As usual, all selected citizens will be contacted at 10am by the Bureau of Health Advancement. Once again, we thank you all for your service. In other news, security forces have retaken sectors 7 and 9; we will provide further updates during our noon bulletin.
So he was doomed. Slowly he sank to his knees, staring down at the tiled floor, its mosaic pattern suddenly looking like the hieroglyphs found in a crypt.
The consulting office in the Bureau of Health Advancement was unsettlingly clean, the artificial white and rounded edges almost nauseating to look at. The consultant had been exceedingly patient, explaining in great detail the upcoming procedure and the expected outcomes; however, he still didn’t understand one thing.
‘Why must I lose my arm?’ Citizen 2077 asked.
The consultant sighed, waving an arm lazily behind him. One of the walls of the room began to fade away, unveiling the neon city below. ‘What do you see?’
Citizen 2077 looked. It was a familiar sight, but today – with the prospect of losing his arm – he let his gaze take everything in. The swirling tumultuous purple clouds that seemed to never fade from the sky, the dank mix of ozone and smog that hugged the buildings of the city, the even fainter neon lights that shone through the tunnels criss-crossing the city streets.
‘Our world is dying,’ the consultant continued flatly, ‘ever since the rebels shattered the sky we have been slowly withering, deprived of the light we need to survive.’
Citizen 2077 thought back to the educational material he had been inoculated with about old Earth. A time when sunlight could reach the surface and the atmosphere was non-corrosive. Like all the others in this new society, he had been taught to yearn for that old world but to never forget the struggles of today took precedent over any foolish dream of the past.
As if sensing his continued uncertainty, the consultant stood up. ‘Come, let me show you something.’
They walked for a while through the shifting maze that was the Bureau, the cold white illumination removing any sense of depth – as if they were simply walking on the spot. Eventually the consultant stopped outside a door, yet like all the other doors it was unmarked and unremarkable, letting the biometric detectors verify his identity before stepping in.
A stasis chamber sat in the middle of the room, tubes running nutrient solution and drainage piping connected haphazardly across its top and bottom. A panel on the front pulsed a pale green, a gentle cascade of numbers flowing across its screen as it monitored the contents within.
Citizen 2077 stared up through the plexiglass into the shadowed face. The rebel, like the ones shown on the newscaster, was dressed in a black trench-coat – eyes obscured by sunglasses. Up close it didn’t look so remarkable – nothing close to the hulking monstrosities he had imagined they would look like.
‘And yet they can survive in this ruined world,’ the consultant said.
Had he read his mind? The thought unsettled Citizen 2077, his train of thought crashing to a halt. ‘So you are going to replace my arm with that thing?’ he gestured vaguely towards the rebel in the tank.
‘Yes. The ultimate goal being of course to create a perfect body that can survive in this new world. Now I think you are well aware of the consequences of refusing a request from the bureau, so when you are ready to have your operation step through that door.’ At the consultant’s words a door, previously hidden in the shadowy corners of the room lit up.
The consultant gave Citizen 2077 a perfunctory bow and then left the room.
The beeping of surgical monitors awoke Citizen 2077, the operation was done. He immediately ran a diagnostic scan of his body, focusing intently on his right arm. Nothing.
In the place of once rich telemetry that would report electrical charge, hydraulic pressure and sensation, there was just a yawning void of emptiness. The only new thing he could detect was a fluid pump embedded in his chest, forcing a mixture of iron and oxygen into his new arm, and pulling out carbon dioxide from the other end.
In one fell swoop he pulled off the blanket, staring down at the pink warm flesh.