Our Flash Fiction challenge at Terrible Minds this week was to use this sentence “A novice revenges the rhythm” somewhere in our story. A little longer than the 1000 words. Hope you enjoy. Kinda creeps me out and I wrote it…
I a Novice
“I a novice.”
“No. You are a novice.”
“I are a novice.”
“No, it’s ‘I am a novice’.”
Mike wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his wrist. Something had to give and soon. T654, or Jason, as his new identification would read, was one of the most difficult cases they had had in recent history. He was in his fourth year of learning to speak, and it came more difficult to him than it might for a two-year-old.
Jason furrowed his brow at the correction and jumped from the chair to his feet. The chair fell backwards. “Me no like… schedule. No. Me no like… beat. Rhythm.”
“Music?” Mike asked. “You don’t like music?”
“No!” Jason exclaimed. He was pacing back and forth now like a frustrated child. He jammed his fingers through his hair. “Schedule! Time! Rhythm! Me no like this!”
“You don’t like the rhythm of your day?”
“No,” Jason spat. Finally understood, he meandered towards the window, which was not a window at all but a cleverly disguised LED television. On the screen was the same scene—the rolling hills under a bright sky, an apple orchard in the distance. Rarely did the scene ever change. Sometimes, if someone fucked up, the video on loop would stop, and live feed of the actual orchard—day or night, rain or shine—would appear, and that required hours of explanation to the students. They did not yet know the difference between night and day. Time was a subject that the educators purposely delayed towards the end so that the students did not count the days they were trapped here. Weather was a subject on an entirely different plane. The students only went outside for the first time on the days they left the facility for good.
Students they were, but far from the typical. These were grown men and women who had undergone brain transplants. Or body transplants. It depended on the way you looked at it. The trauma of such an operation caused such a regression in ninety-eight percent of cases that almost complete re-education had to take place. On occasion, perhaps two percent of the time, a brain failed to completely embrace its new body. When novices (they were called novices because despite their possible brain age, these people were novices in life again) began to question why their body did not feel like their own, began to hurt themselves, they had to be eliminated. This was usually done as lethal injection disguised as just another flu shot.
There were other reasons for being marked for death, but this was the most common.
The brain-body transplants began as a way for those with failing bodies to survive much longer than they were destined to. The bodies would be harvested from brain-dead patients, those in comas, on life support. Then, the elderly began to use the process as a means of staying young, having a second go at life. Within ten years of the process, “Medical Reincarnation” or MR, as it was being called, existing, people began hiring hitmen to ‘take out’ young twenty-somethings. They weren’t being killed, but weapons equipped with not tranquilizers but a formula that could ensure permanent brain damage were the new norm in the underworld. Mike had heard that some people would “Terminate Brain Activity”, or simply TBA for short, for less than twenty thousand dollars these days.
Others, those specializing in the TBAs of high-profile people, charged millions. In many cases, after transporting the body to a secret location, private and not-necessarily-MR-licensed surgeons would be used to perform the operation, and the public would be none the wiser. This high-profile person would disappear to re-education facilities like the one Mike worked at, and within a year, they’d be back in the public eye—if that’s what the owner of the brain had wanted. Suddenly, said high-profile subject was acting differently, speaking differently. This was due to the re-education process, however, not so much the new brain’s different personality.
Because despite the brain not belonging to the body, the MR operation essentially provided a clean slate.
Those that opted for MR didn’t know this was the result. Therefore, neither did their family members, friends, or anyone outside the medical world. Why the secrecy? Because the government was behind the whole operation and wanted to keep the money flowing. Each MR cost close to half a million dollars, and surgeons received substantially less to participate. Two hundred people a day in the United States alone underwent legal MR. And who was doing the re-education? People like Mike. Free labour.
The government had taken to prisons to find their re-educators with the threat that under non-compliance, prisoners would see their sentence altered to that of lethal injection. Comply, and prisoners were promised shorter sentences. It was in one’s best interest to comply. Inmates were put through a stringent series of tests to find the best possible re-educators who were then transferred to a private facility. Half of it was a prison, half of it was a re-education center. Each day, Mike punched in for work, and he punched back out to retire to his cell.
It pissed him off that this numbskull, Jason, went back to a cushy bedroom with all the comforts of home. But considering Mike was in for third degree murder, hitting and killing a pedestrian while texting, he figured he had gotten off easy with this re-education gig, his sentence reduced from fifteen years to five, and he’d already served three. But for God’s sake, Jason was just driving him around the bend.
And now, it seemed, Jason was as frustrated as his third re-educator.
He turned back from the LED window. “Why I here?”
“I’ve told you,” Mike said. “You had a severe accident. This is a rehabilitation center. You need to re-learn everything you once knew.”
Jason shook his head. “No. Bad. Not… good. Not… right. Me not happy here. A lot of rhythm.”
“Are you saying you’re not happy with your daily routine?”
Jason eagerly nodded his head. “Not happy.”
Mike looked at his watch. His shift ended in just under an hour. He knew what he had to do—they had reached the height of their capabilities—but he really didn’t want to have to do it now. By the time he got authorization, it would be close to five o’clock. Dinner. He could do it tomorrow, but once novices began to question, they didn’t stop, and by nine tomorrow morning, he could have gleaned more information, dangerous information, from his more learned counterparts.
Jason stepped towards Mike with fire in his new thirty-year-old eyes. In his hand was a pair of scissors. Mike had seen this look before, in other inmates, in those that had murdered intentionally. He stood from his chair and approached the door, intent on locking Jason in the room while he went to get approval for the euthanasia. His family would be told he had suffered a severe seizure as a result of the transplant.
As Mike reached the door, he felt a body slam into his, crushing his face into the tiny window that allowed them to see into the hallway.
“I a novice, yes?” Jason hissed into Mike’s ear.
Mike glanced down at his neck to find that the scissor points were digging into it. Trying to keep his cool, having been in enough prison scraps to know how, he nodded. “Yes, you’re a novice.” He turned further to see his attacker’s face.
Jason smiled. “Today…” He paused to think.
“…a novice revenges the rhythm.”
© Lindsay Mawson 2012