Synthetics

This is story number two for my 12 stories in 12 months challenge. This month’s prompt was “New Me” and we had to write it in 1200 words. I liked this prompt better than the last, but my idea didn’t really need the full 1200 words. I hope the filler isn’t too distracting.

Theseus opened his eyes. “How do you feel?” the doctor asked.

“Fine. Did you do it?”

“We did. Your fingernails and toenails have been replaced with synthetics. You will find them stronger and more useful, and you’ll never have a hangnail again.”

Theseus looked at his hands and tapped his thumbs against each of his other fingertips. “They don’t seem any different.”

“That’s the idea,” the doctor replied.

“That’s everything, then?” Theseus asked.

“It is. As far as we know, you are the first person to have had every body part replaced with synthetics.”

“You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”

“Of course not. All medical procedures are confidential.”

“Good. I don’t want any press.”

“No need to worry. When I write it up, you’ll be given a pseudonym.”

“So, what now?” Theseus asked.

“Nothing really. I’d like you to rest today, but you can resume normal activities tomorrow. No restrictions.”

“Perfect.”

***

The next day, Theseus awoke a few minutes before his alarm went off. He lay in bed waiting for the alarm. When it went off at 6:30, Theseus turned it off, got up and walked to the bathroom. He looked in the mirror, then held his hands up with the backs facing him. “Amazing,” he said. Then he bent down and inspected his toes.

If he didn’t know, he wouldn’t know. That’s how all the synthetics were, though. No one could tell by looking that none of his body parts were original. He even felt the same as he’d always felt. The only differences between Theseus and everyone else were no grey hairs and none of the daily aches and pains that were common in people his age.

He knew he had to get moving. He started by brushing his teeth, then a shower, then breakfast. He had trouble deciding what to wear. He kind of wanted attention, it was a big day. But he hadn’t told anyone about the procedure. The only way he’d get noticed is if he wore something special. He decided on his regular khakis but paired them with a bright red dress shirt. That should get him a couple of compliments.

***

Theseus left the house a bit earlier than he usually did. Instead of taking the shuttle to work, he wanted to walk. He couldn’t think of any other way to test his new synthetics. It’s not like he used his fingernails much. Occasionally he would pick his teeth with them, or maybe lift a cover, but that was about it. And he couldn’t think of anything he’d ever done with his toenails. So, walking it was and he dragged his fingertips across railings or the sides of buildings as he passed them.

It took Theseus about twenty minutes to get to work. He pushed his way through the revolving door into the lobby. The floor was marble, probably not real marble, but it looked the part. There was a high, mirrored ceiling and there was a security desk with a woman sitting at it. Next to the desk was an arch that led to a door which led to the building proper. There were a few people milling about and chatting.

Theseus walked towards the arch and the door. “Good morning, Sophia,” he said as he walked past the desk.

“Nice shirt,” she replied.

He walked under the arch, like he did every morning. A red light started flashing, and when Theseus tried the door, it was locked. A puzzled look crossed his face.

“That’s weird,” said Sophia as she walked around the desk. “Step back out here, please.” He did and she said, “Now, try again.”

Theseus stepped through the arch again, and the same red light started flashing. “There must be something wrong with the scanner,” he said. “Can you buzz me in?”

Sophia was looking at a screen on the side of the arch. “It says you’re ‘unknown.’ I’ve never seen that before. Everyone’s in the database. Try one more time.”

He walked a few feet into the lobby, turned and walked back under the arch. The red light flashed. The other people in the lobby started to pay attention. Theseus looked around uncomfortably. He’d wanted attention, but not this kind. “Can you please buzz me in? I’m going to be late for work.”

“I’m sorry,” she replied, “but I can’t let you in without it being logged. Do you have an ID on you?”

“An ID? Of course not. No one’s carried ID in a decade. Not since the scanners were installed everywhere.”

“I need something to prove that you’re you.”

“But you know me. We say, ‘Good morning,’ every morning and, ‘Have a nice night,’ every night.”

“I know, but I could get fired. There’s no way they’ll take my word over the scanner’s. Excuse me,” she said to the small crowd that was watching. “Are any of you going in?”

A short man with thick, dark hair raised his hand.

“Glaucon!” Theseus almost yelled. “You can vouch for me. We’ve been working together for years.”

“Can I?” asked Glaucon.

“I’m afraid not,” Sophia said. “If they won’t take my word over the scanner’s, they won’t take yours. But, could you try going in? I want to see if the scanner’s messed up or if it’s Theseus.”

“Nice,” Theseus muttered.

“No problem,” Glaucon replied. He walked through the arch, no red light, and the door opened at his touch. He lingered for a moment, “Sorry, Theseus. I wish I could help.” Then, he went through the door and it closed behind him.

Theseus let out a sigh.

“Okay,” said Sophia, “Try it one more time.”

Theseus shrugged and walked through the arch yet again. The red light flashed, and the door stayed locked. “This is ridiculous.” He was starting to get angry.

“Were there any issues yesterday?”

“I took a vacation day yesterday, but it was fine the day before that and every work day for the past seven years.”

“What did you do on your vacation day?” Sophia asked jokingly.

A slow, “Oh, crap!” was Theseus’ response. “What does the scanner scan when it scans us?”

“I’m not really sure. I think it scans everything and matches it to the database.”

“This is embarrassing, but I had a procedure done yesterday,” Theseus said in a low voice. “I had something replaced with a synthetic. You don’t think that could be messing up my scan?”

“I wouldn’t think one synthetic would do it. You’re still mostly the same. There are tons of people who have gotten synthetics.”

“Crap, crap, crap. I can’t believe I didn’t think about this. I can’t believe they didn’t warn me. Oh, crap.”

“Warn you about what?” Sophia asked.

“I might not be me anymore.”

“Of course you’re you. What are you talking about? We’ve known each other for years.”

Theseus took out his phone. He called his boss, “Hi. It’s Theseus. I’m going to need to take a sick day today. I know I was out yesterday, but it’s important. I’ll explain tomorrow.” He hung up and put the phone back in his pocket.

“I’ve got to get to city hall,” he said. “This is going to be a nightmare to sort out.”

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