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Fiction Contemporary Speculative

One can acquire anything at BUILD A NEW YOU with the press of a button. Desires are met with contractual agreements. Signatures placed with a glance.  

Lynn Dean is Joshua’s wife on some days and just a lover on others. It all depends on her mood.  

The couple walks into a store and casually shops for new augments. 

“Honey, look at that one!” Lynn says.

She points to revolving images of babies, toddlers and teens. From newborns to young adults. As one image moves into another, fading in and out, classical music grows to a crescendo. A luxurious ambiance. 

Lynn focuses on an adult form clad in a tailored Armani suit. She witnesses the details in awe, carefully investigating each fiber, sinew and hue of the blossoming human form. Blonde hair and blue eyes, muscular and tan, reading a copy of Dostoyevsky’s Notes From the Underground on a park bench. Sitting quaintly amidst a beautiful cascading waterfall. 

Joshua abides as Lynn pleas nonchalantly for her husband to undergo the changes she desires. She points to this and that with a self-righteousness that Joshua finds exhausting. He wishes she’d just stay up all night thinking how much she loves the man she married. Instead, he senses she wouldn’t think twice about leaving if he didn’t do this.

“Please honey, oh please! Look at him! He is perfect! Can we get that one!?” Lynn asks.  

A slight desperation in her voice. She mistakes Joshua’s calm stoicism for passive agreement. As if he were asked to choose between different cereal brands while grocery shopping. Joshua remains apathetic. Says nothing as his lover stares obsessively at John #3.16a749 

“He’d make such a good you! I just adore this version,” says Lynn.  

The couple had purchased Daniel #6.36149beta-alpha-plus the year prior. A perfectly handsome, humorous and playful man. Witty and self-assured. It seems the alterations always fade around the ten month marker. Sometimes seven, Joshua can’t keep track.  

Today’s visit to BUILD A NEW YOU invites wanted change for Lynn Dean. Joshua never appears to get used to the updates. He endures the suggestions as Viktor Frankl endured isolation.

He always feels like an outsider looking in. Seeing some version of someone he’s not. After a while you just forget who you are, he thinks.  

Caveat emptor, he thinks.

In the midst of paperwork, finalizing the purchase for template John, the sales representative, tapping a Ferragamo wing-toed dress shoe stops, clears his throat, and asks, “And… Mr. and Mrs. Dean? Pertaining to faith and God, what do you wish for Joshua to believe?”  

Somewhat taken back by the question, Lynn asks, “Well, what do you mean? Belief has never been a part of earlier updates.”

The BUILD A NEW YOU corporate representatives explains after taking a sip of ph10 brand bottled water, “Since last year’s purchase of Daniel our patented and trademarked vesicular monoamine transporter 2, or, VMAT2 GENE, makes it possible for our clients to choose whether or not your product will have a built-in genetic disposition towards faith. Belief in God or, higher being, as you will…”

“Ooh, how intriguing,” says Lynn.

Joshua coughs. Fidgets. Eyes look to the ground. No bottom to the depravity of vanity, he thinks.

The sales representative continues with a plastic face that might be mistaken for a child’s play toy. Joshua begins to feel dizzy as the Ken doll in front of him drones on.

“For an additional charge of 15 thousand dollars you will never again worry about the impermanence of being. Further, such a trait may be added with no additional cost if you care less about eye color, height, weight, etc., by which you can now exchange this trait with your basic package of ‘choose your ten’. Should you wish to purchase a premium package over the basic for an additional 200 thousand we can include any trait of your desire with no additional fees,” explains the salesman.

Lynn responds with an agreeable grin.

This makes me sick to my stomach, Joshua thinks.   

“Okay! Yes! Yes, of course… Joshua shall love God as well,” Lynn says.

Joshua holds hands with Lynn. Not because of love but habit. Fingers interlocking. He squeezes tightly. Knuckles white. Unkempt nails begin to pierce flesh below metatarsals. Lynn pulls away indifferently. Swipes at a lock of hair draping her eyes. Joshua finds her hand once again and gives no option to let go.

“The premium package it is! Sky’s the limit!” Lynn says with genuine enthusiasm. “Right, honey?”

Joshua nods like a toy soldier.

“Sure. Great. Wonderful,” Joshua says.  

Entropy flows in any direction when men play God, he thinks. I’m going to vomit, he thinks.

Deep breath.  

How can I change the momentum of this nonsense, he thinks. Would Lynn accept the same brutality, he thinks.  

A comic book cloud pops up from his three pound fallen brain.

My turn - it reads.

“Are you still offering the Marilyn Monroe/Nicole Kidman hybrid augment? I’m just asking on behalf of my lovely wife here. She was interested. Wouldn’t that be just swell, honey? We’d make the perfect couple then, wouldn’t we?” Says Joshua.

Her eyes cut through him. More out of surprise and spiritual egocentricity than anger.

Lynn clears her throat and endures the onslaught that follows.

“And we’d certainly be interested incorporating this… faith gene thing you speak of with her updates,” Joshua says.

He unravels his fingers from hers and places her hand around her waist. Size 4, he thinks. Perfectly her, he thinks. What would she do if she were the one looking down upon her own existence, he thinks.  

A little Nicole should help. He looks at her dark locks of unidimensional flat hair. Beautiful you, he thinks. A tincture with Marilyn should lighten things up, he thinks. Blondes have more fun, right Lynn? He thinks.  

A dirty squall of anxiety suddenly comes over Joshua. Everything feels absurd. Somewhere in the shadows of his mind he gains an uncanny momentum of doubt and regret. This BUILD A NEW YOU place becomes a destination where identities are based on a pathetic notion that perfection might somehow be reached.

Joshua couldn’t fake the feelings any longer.

He couldn’t stand to play along, and he questions why the woman he married chose to do so.  

His lover looked sad in the eye of his mind.

He felt alone.

Joshua is young but lately he’s been thinking about death. Lynn is even younger and she wastes her days with thinking this is how it’s always going to be. Joshua says that “in the garden” there were no augmentations to make everything better when Satan seduced Eve.  

BUILD A NEW YOU was the same lie that ever was.

Hide from God and know what He knows.

Lynn wisps another lock of brunette hair from her face, chuckles and says casually, “But you said I was perfect, Joshua?”

She looks to the salesman who gives her a slight wink of affirmation. Joshua is used to this and pays the gesture no mind.

The world seems to close in on Joshua. This is how the true panic always begins. Like a buzzing fly that bursts into a vicious flame. Tinitus or something like it makes it so he can’t hear. Both Lynn and the salesman seem to be saying something to him but the world swells in and out and Joshua is dizzy. His head in a vice, all he can sense is the erratic throbbing of his own heart.

“What about Marilyn Monroe and Nicole Kidman do you want, Mr. Dean?” Asks the salesman. He asks the question the same way he’d inquire about the weather on his connection device. Obnoxiously twiddling a gold-plated cross pen. Some initials or hieroglyphics personally engraved on it’s apex.

“Joshua? Honey? We never talked about an update for me,” Lynn says.

Joshua focuses on the projected image of the baby. He ignores the man the child becomes. They only know because of the augments they add. Playing God.

Disgusting, he thinks.

He both hears and understands.

He realizes before he speaks.

“Because you are perfect, Lynn. We never needed to talk about it. I don’t want you to change.”

November 04, 2021 20:11

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12 comments

Jon Casper
10:15 Nov 05, 2021

I just read this again and I'm super impressed, Dustin. Many couples have the "free pass" conversation -- that hypothetical one celebrity with whom they'd be allowed an affair. Safe because they know it would never happen. This story is like that argument being made a reality, and the dire consequences of it. We all want to feel like we're perfect for each other. You express the hurt of being told you're not ideal, even more profoundly because it's beyond just the physical. Great concept and well-executed.

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Dustin Gillham
18:13 Nov 05, 2021

Jon, I'm so humbled by your compliment. I was having a bit of lethargy in my writing exercises this week and BUILD A NEW YOU ended up way too long and heavy. It's not mint but the product here is the best I could chop it up. That was my worry though. It's not as smooth as I wanted it. A little clunky. You nailed absolutely everything I was attempting to portray. Probably a bit of my own relationship baggage packed in. Thank you so much. Blessings, Dustin

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Graham Kinross
11:37 Nov 17, 2021

This feels like it would be an episode of Black Mirror. Very dark. One of those toxic relationships where someone does all of the giving and gets completely taken for granted. Shame he doesn't burst the bubble at the end. Good work. I was there.

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Dustin Gillham
00:37 Nov 18, 2021

Graham, P.s. 'Children of Dreams' and 'Cold Taste of Defeat' had me gripped. You're an excellent writer and I look forward to reading more of yours. Haven't had the chance to check out your latest ones, as of yet, but I promise I will. Thank you again for reading my stories. I'll keep reading yours if you read mine. :-). Thanks again Graham. I appreciate you my friend. Blessings, Dustin

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Graham Kinross
01:41 Nov 18, 2021

Thanks Dustin. You’ve got some amazing stories. I need to read more of them.

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Janis Van Meter
06:50 Nov 12, 2021

Love your story! I need to shop for pieces and parts for a new me.

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Emily Snyder
13:14 Nov 05, 2021

I liked this idea. It does the job of a true short story by exaggerating a problem we often ignore in order to bring it to light. I think the message may have been stronger if you had honed in on Joshua's point of view a little sooner. After the first paragraph, I found myself jumping around a bit trying to figure out who to follow. Once the connection was made with Joshua, the point started to set in and the weight of his emotions were stronger. Here is a good article that may help strengthen your message in the future https://jerryjenkins....

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Dustin Gillham
18:09 Nov 05, 2021

Emily, I am grateful for your advice and suggestions. You are absolutely correct. In all honesty it ended up being way too long and I really don't like making my stories longer than 1200 words. There are so many talented writers on Reedsy. I spend most of my time in awe of writers like you. The Jenkins suggestion was awesome. A lot of R.L. Stein helps me. Good stuff. Thank you so much Emily. Blessings, Dustin

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Kendall Defoe
03:14 Nov 05, 2021

Well done. Have you read 'Machines Like Me' by Ian McEwan? It really is a take off on what you have here (you might like it).

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Dustin Gillham
19:32 Nov 06, 2021

I have not. I will have to check Ian McEwan out. Thank you so much for the suggestion. Blessings, Dustin

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Darrell Grant
16:08 Jan 21, 2022

Loved the story. It simply shows that becoming the perfect man in someone else's eyes will not always lead to the perfect marriage.

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Ry Danto
11:15 Nov 09, 2021

I really enjoyed the idea here. Concept was unique and Joshua's voice was relatable. I do think the story may have benefitted if Joshua's POV was followed from the start. Either way, great job. Well done.

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