Chapter 3

Ben awoke the next morning to the sound of Katy sobbing. His heart sank. Last night had been wonderful; he loved number 3. She couldn’t be hungover. In the old days it had been tough the next day sometimes, but they’d discovered a new compound that somehow magically gave you the full experience without the serotonin depletion the next day. How they did that he didn’t know, but he was thankful. He was also thankful for the legalization movement that had swept the nation in the late 2020s. Sometimes it was hard to believe that experiences like last night’s used to be illegal - that people could go to prison for that. “There’s nothing bad about Love!”, they had chanted. He hadn’t been among them but had watched on VR as the protesters braved the streets of San Francisco. He lay there for a moment, his eyes closed, wondering what to do. He had always found it difficult to deal with women’s emotions. It wasn’t that he didn’t care, well, not exactly, he just didn’t know how to help. It seemed vacuous to put your hand on their shoulder and say ‘There, there’ but this was often all he could think of. So he lay with his eyes closed, trying hard to think of what else he could do or say.

“Good morning Ben!” said the room, the lights coming up and taking on a blue-ish hue. His heart sank a second time. The room had been monitoring his vitals and knew he was awake so now Katy knew it too. Sometimes he wondered if all this technology was a good thing. Still, you can never go backwards, he thought. It was time to face the day. He sat up in bed, put his hand on Katy’s shoulder, and said “There, there. It’s ok Katy.”

“Huh? Oh, I’m fine.”

Cautiously, a feeling of relief began to rise within him. He feared some trick might be at play, but he couldn’t think what. And she sounded genuine.

“Why are you crying then?”

“Oh, I was just being Romeo & Juliet on the experiencer. It’s a classic love story you know - you might try it if you want to actually experience some emotions.”

“Oh I’m glad. Yes, sure I might do that soon.”

Ben knew he had to tell Katy about Benny soon. She was going to find out soon enough. He’d been scared to tell her after the way she reacted to the news about him doing the Frankenstein approach. No time like the present.

“Katy, can we talk about something?”

“What is it, my love?” she said sweetly. He winced, he hoped imperceptibly.

“Have you heard of Real Me?”

She looked at him, one eyebrow raised. Why was this particular action such an obvious expression of enquiring sarcasm, he wondered. He had always wished he could do that too. Shit, he should have had the team at Youthful You make that edit in his genetic code. Why hadn’t he thought of that? Idiot.

He went on, “Well here’s the thing…”. She was smiling sweetly at him, as if she knew what he was going to say. He realized that she was doing this intentionally, smiling at him to communicate exactly that.

“It’s ok, babe, I know,” she interrupted. “I got a message from Benny actually, and he told me all about himself. He’s you - he explained the whole thing. I think it’s great. This way I can still hang out with a virtual version of you when you’re on one of your trips. And you’re twice as thoughtful - or more - like with the flowers.”

The waters of anxiety seemed to drain away, and he relaxed and lay back on the bed. “I’m so glad you understand,” he replied. She wasn’t angry that Benny had got her the flowers rather than him, because she understood that Benny was also him. He felt a flush of embarrassment that she seemed to be catching onto this whole thing a lot quicker than he was.

Roxy Wacyk