A to Z April: S – Sustenance

Vanessa sits on her bed, struggling to find a comfortable position as she flicks through her diary. Proud of her dedication to filling it in on a daily basis, the pages flit by as she scowls at bad days and smiles at days she did herself good service. Shrugging on a cardigan, she felt a breeze stroke her shoulders as she reminisced the good meal times over the last few days.

Monday:

Breakfast – cereal bar. Gets me up and ready for the day.

Lunch – low fat yoghurt and granola. Keep the momentum up, feel the burn!

Dinner – apple and medium fries. Naughty, punishment meal to come.

A punishment meal for Vanessa, under the new rules she’d written in tbe beginning of the diary, was meant for when a particulary heavy meal was consumed and balance needed to be saught out. To forgive herself for a big binge, she would skip a meal in the same week to catch up. No steps backward were allowed, if one happened it had to be followed with two steps forward.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – peppermint tea and small cup of popcorn.

Lunch – packet of chopped apple, miso soup.

Dinner – steamed veg and black coffee.

Wednesday…

She filled in today’s calorie intake, wanting to go a step further and take this diet seriously. Pulling the cardigan around her as she slips off the bed, she tiptoes into the bathroom and closes the door behind her, turning the light on only when inside.

Taking off the cardigan, the first thing she loves to see is her light blue skin on her METAL arm. Shapely and the image of hearth, she enjoys admiring its strong and defined lines. Turning, she looks at her own arm, a tiny flap of skin hanging off a boney skeleton. The fruits of her labour, she was never quite happy with what she saw in the mirror. That skin needs to go, its too rotund, too unsightly, too fat.

She lifts her top to count the ribs staring back at her in the reflection and notices the blue permeating her own skin along the join of flesh between hers and the METAL. As if the skin was taking over her own, her complexion had faded and her veins were prominently blue as her enhanced arm sucked the life from her natural body. She loved it.

Tapping the shoulder hard with the flat of her hand to get the blood flowing, she craved the feeling of calorific intake flowing into the arm to feed it. The days of stair climbing and long walks were over, this was the next best thing. METAL, the weight loss miracle. She giggled to herself at the thought of working in their marketing department.

“Vanessa Rexia – Marketing Director for METAL weightloss wordwide.”

Slipping the cardigan back on, it hung from her sallow frame as she turned the light off in the bathroom and pranced back to her room with satisfaction at a job well done, progress has been visible since she got her arm enhanced and someday she would reach her goal weight.

Someday.

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A to Z April: R – Recovery

Dr. Ryder took a moment to marvel at the METAL that he had recently recieved. Beginning from the shoulder and travelling into the left pec, his entire arm had been removed and enhanced. The crystal blue outer shell flexed and warped at his command as he listened for the near-inaudible whirr of the tech moving from within the miracle he now had.

Sitting at his desk, his focus point wandered into the atrium outside. Sunlight streamed in through the ceiling and the walls of the atrium looking out into the surrounding gardens. The new building was a feat to behold, yet was erected in what felt like no time; no doubt accelerated with the immeasurable growth of the company.

Ryder flicks through the instructional booklet on the limb and resumes the chapter on the recovery period. The skin and muscle around the join pulses and shudders frequently as it accommodates its new addition to the body. He understood the principles behind the integration period, the limbs knit themselves into the body of the host but it’s a process that takes time. The initial surgeries simply ensure the limb is anchored onto its newly made socket and the METAL does the rest.

Thinking about integration made the METAL shiver, he flexes his arm and clenches his new hand into a fist to calm it, watching the translucent surface thinge and move internally at his whim.

Feeling the itch to test the limb he stands sheepishly in his own office, watching through the glass to ensure colleagues weren’t watching. With the METAL arm, he places a hand around the edge of his desk and slides it across the floor with ease. The feeling of untapped potential felt incredible.

Letting out a small laugh at the little exertion he had used to move the desk, he eyes the nearby filing cabinet. Tilting the cabinet with his own natural hand, he slips the METAL hand under and slides the cabinet up the wall, lifting it clean off the floor. Seeing it held against the wall sent waves of confidence through him, washing over his ego, he felt it inflate to fill the room. In the same moment his skin split around the join, giving out with the strain and the filing cabinet dropped to the floor with a considerable boom.

Feeling the room shrink around him the panic stung his senses as he inspected the damage. The flesh between his own and the METAL had ripped apart, showing the intricate weaving between himself and the limb at work through a small lip of cramping skin, blood and a darker fluid trickled out in a horrid mess onto the carpet. The limb began to twitch and cramp, sending pain signals to the brain as Ryder fell back into his chair, sending it wheeling along the room, trailing fluids behind him.

The crystal blue began to bleed a crimson along the join down towards the hand, artificial circulatory system filling with internal cooling fluid, it was failing. He felt the hand weaken as he struggled to clench it into a fist and a subtle alarm could be heard as the SOS feature kicked in. Crimson veins crept down the arm and along his shoulder as the damage spread.

As Ryder fell into shock and seizure, dropping to the floor. The sound of his body collapsing caught the attention of a colleague in the hall who slammed an emergency button calling for urgent METicAL assistance. Within moments a commotion could be heard from below as the recovery team rumbled up the stairs to wheel Ryder to the intensive unit.

The fluid ran from his mouth as he choked on it. The arm’s condition deteriorating as the crimson faded to black and the arm spasmed hard, at times grabbing at his hip and thigh in agony, bruising his own natural body.

The team rushed into the office, swept Ryder up into a stretcher and they whisked him down to be treated and monitored.

Seven months passed, Ryder has yet to reappear.

A to Z April: Q – Qualify

Gerald was a friendly man, all his neighbours thought so. Retired at 92, the standard retirement age of his generation, he tends to his garden and ensures the people on his street feel safe and secure in their homes. Gerald had been brought up in a tough neighbourhood and hadn’t had much luck in his own life choices and so went from one bad neighbourhood to another.

Pruning his hedges, Gerald hears the distinct clip clop of running coming from further down the street. He smiles a warm smile and nods to the girl running at speed towards him. It was Steph, the girl that lived next door to him. She was a troubled girl, her parents did what they could but Steph had a weak lungs which have always caused her trouble. ‘She must have just finished school’, he thought to himself, noting she is back earlier than she normally is. The sun set behind her as she clattered towards him.

It pleased Gerald to see her run, she couldn’t often, but he knew what she was running towards.

   “Good luck, my girl!” he says, as she speeds past him and stomps up the stairs.

   “Wish yourself luck when I can-” She stopped at the top of the porch, grabbed the wooden pillar supporting the roofed overhang above her and took several deep panicked breaths. Her eyes bulged as her body began to understand the physical exertion she had put it through to get home so quickly.

   “Take your time, you might miss the feeling when you’re better.” He laughed quietly to himself.

She grimaced at Gerald, turned towards her front door and entered proudly.

Gerald turned away from his neighbours house, and resumed pruning his hedges. He enjoyed the satisfying crunchy slice the twigs and leaves made as they were snipped away from their protruding positions. He hummed some of his favourite songs from the good old days, happy knowing that Steph was excited about her future.

Placing the pruning scissors carefully on the fence next to him, he began to focus on some troublesome weeds that had been gathering around the roots of the hedges. Plucking them carefully, not to disturb the placement of his own handiwork, he hears the front door of his neighbours house open and close.

   “Well? Did you get your letter?”

   “Yeah.” She replies, shouting so he can hear as she notices he has his back to her.

He hears the slipping of a fabric against the wood of their porch, she was picking up her schoolbag is what is sounded like.

Gerald was struggling with a pesky weed, well rooted into the soil beneath him. Planting his own two feet onto the grass he bends with his knees as his grandson taught him he should do at his tender age and yanks hard, weed slipping through his hands.

   “And?”

In reply, Gerald feels a soft tap on his back as a scrunched ball of paper lands on the ground and rolls slightly towards the weed he was pulling. As the ball came to a stop he picked it up and read through the reply to her application intently.

‘Dear Miss Kettley’

He skips through the introduction and his eyes rest on the crux of the matter. He hears the clip clop of Steph’s shoes on the steps of the porch tumbling down assuming she was coming to greet him personally now.

‘We regret to inform you that in this case your application does not qualify for our current program, we encourage your application as our supplier, METAL, continue to make new concessions for those in your circumstances.’

   “I’m sorry Steph, we can work together to-”

He looked up at the neighbours house and Steph’s shoes lay at the bottom of the steps to their house.

Steph hung from the beam across the entrance, eyes bulged, red faced and traumatised. Her shoes must have flew off as she jumped and the rope caught her neck.

Gerald stood, stunned with the sight of such a young girl dead in front of him.

He wept, ripped the weed from the ground and took it inside to call 999.

A to Z April: P – Protest

With a moment to straighten the tailored power blazer and check their mic was on, the reporter was ready for the camera to roll. A gentle nod to their colleague and they were good to go.

   “We are gathered here today in the main exhibit of the largest art gallery in the country to welcome the latest addition courtesy of the anonymous artist.” They indicate with a quick glance behind them the focus of the segment, an exhibit newly opened.

   “Presented for the eyes of the public is a piece entitled “THE DEATH OF HUMANITY” and takes the form of a silicone replica of the human body. Fitted with accompanying hard-structured bones and joints, the model is a pristine imitation of the human form, down to the detailing of the veins pulsing under the skin.”

The gallery was alive with activity around the exhibit, several university scholars had taken the decision to see it first hand along with a primary school class being ushered along by three teachers well out of their spans of control for the day in such a busy location.

   “The concept is simple, as described by the creator in his own words: ‘each time a development is made into the enhancement of the human condition I shall drive a nail through that body part. If the affect or development is mental I drive it through the scalp’ An impressive commitment considering the leaps and bounds METAL have come in enhanced humanity over the last few years alone.” As if on cue, the reporter gets several notifications projected personally to them through their METAL right eye.

   “Taking the entire piece in is a chilling look at the state of our bodies and the current biological agreements we have with the company responsible. As demonstrated here, nails have been driven through several parts of the limbs, the chest and abdomen are exposed and several nails have been carefully driven through nearly all of the organs in the model, as well as countless nails driven through the scalp.” The reporter walks around the model, taking in the full scope of the work involved. The model was eerily lifelike and the nails were numerous, the heart resembled a hedgehog more than a human organ.

   “And in the back of the model we see an exposed part of the brain, untouched, revealing one of the key developments that remain elusive to METAL to this day. Still, we see no announcements in the replacement of the brain. While the company have managed to understand the connections to the rest of the body, constructing a mind capable of commanding the actions our bodies make continues to be the puzzlement to many a METAL researcher.”

A card at the bottom of the exhibit, stuck to the podium and handwritten simply states:

The day the brain is tossed to the curb is the day humanity slips between our fingers into the drains below.

   “According to staff in the gallery, the anonymous artist is given total privacy on a daily basis to return to the work and add several more nails to the exhibit, the identity of the artist remains a mystery.”

The ramblings of the reporter bounce off nearby canvases and land in the ears of several children and adults alike as they ponder on the state of their own existence. One particular pair of ears listens intently, an onlooker, watching the bustle around the exhibit. Leaning against a marble pillar, they smirk at the comments and interpretations discussed. An idea strikes them suddenly and they reach for their pocket-sized notepad kept in a deep pocket. As they pull the pad out to document the idea before it flits away they hear a distinct metalling ping…

…as an iron nail bounces off the gallery floor.

A to Z April: O – Office

Cameras flash in a frantic stream from below as Elle masterfully descends the stone steps which elevate the atrium behind her, providing a vertical spectacle as the many office spaces and labs branch off in all directions. Thick red rope barriers keep the press at bay in a crescent formation as she approaches a podium with a subtle thin microphone beckoning her speech within the reception area.

   “Thank you all for coming.” The cameras stop, under strict instruction not to interrupt her talking.

   “The building you see around us today is the architectural representation of what we’ve been working on in METAL up until now. Five key departments each inhabit a building all of their own, connected by this central glass atrium, working together to form the inner workings of our humbled organisation.” As Elle speaks, the breeze through the atrium stops to listen, her rich brown locks calming with the atmosphere as it settles around her.

   “I shan’t steal the thunder of my colleagues as they provide tours to show you what we are so very excited to be working on, but I do have one unveiling of my own this morning.” She makes eye contact with each and every person presented before her as she speaks. Selected publications and key respected colleagues in the research of similar products and developments were invited to the unveiling of the head offices, a building that had been commissioned and built especially for the needs of the company.

   “When I was a lot younger as I’m sure you all know by now, I was very sick and lost a lot of my childhood. This included the loss of one of my legs. As I grew up, I grew through several prosthetics and makeshift solutions in order to help my development into adulthood. Each more uncomfortable than the last I was determined to provide a solution for those in similar circumstances.”

She pulls a crimson silk sheet from a large curved display case that compliments the shape of the central atrium to reveal a long series of prosthetics. Beginning from the smallest, they grow in size as they progress along the display until they reach a replica of the leg she currently wears.

   “It was this journey that I embarked on, not necessarily by choice but by duty, that led me to gather the best team possible to create the products that are changing the world and the human experience as we know it today. Before I let you loose on our inner-world, may I wish you all the very best of health and should you walk into our halls as a patient may your journey be the beginning of the best of your life. Thank you.”

Elle waves to the crowd, the queen of her own kingdom, and turns to ascend the steps to return to her own brand new office, camera flashes following her as she went. She wore black trousers with a flowing white blouse that billowed in the gentle breeze as it carried her up the steps. The trousers were slit open at the seams travelling up the legs to tastefully show off the METAL product she wore as the fabric was tossed from side to side. The leg glistened in the sun and seemed to pulse with a soft red hue as her heels clicked on the exquisite marble.

A to Z April: N – Narwhal

Crackling quietly, the artist’s tool scorches the design into the hard surface as the client reclines back into the leather chair, sunglasses now worn as a requirement and not as a choice.

“It feels good, the burn…” The sparking intensifies for a moment as tiny orbs of heat flick off onto the cold concrete floor. You get much business this way? Y’know, on METAL?”

The crackling stopped for a moment as the artist flicked his visor up to reply.

“Occasionally-” The artist brushes the surface, flaked material breaking off and falling to the floor silently. “-nothing as impressive as this commission. This has to be the most unique piece of modified METAL I’ve had the pleasure of marking.” The artist reaches for a can of compressed air and jets the surface briefly.

“Why this particular piece?” The artist asks, flipping his visor back down to continue working.

“It’s a beast of elegance. Living only in the coldest remote waters, little is truly known about their behaviour. They prefer the company of their own. While they aren’t known to be violent, they work together to achieve goals of sustaining territory and catching food.”

The artist continues to mark the surface of the METAL. Scraping minuscule ridges in the surface, almost unnoticeable to the naked eye. Taking the modded limb in his gloved hand he rotates the piece slightly to view the overall piece, he readjusts his position and continues once again.

“We all have our own parts we are proud of. Mine is my leg. Someone else’s is their arm. Someone is proud of their modded chest. We all have our personalised mods. Finding a good artist such as yourself is difficult in the current social climate.”

“I’m well aware of the risks involved, modding is punishable by confiscation of the parts and your freedom. Marking is punishable by being marked yourself. Its a tough time to be an artist.”

The tool sends an arc of light bouncing down the shaft of the limb and makes a metalling tinkling sound as it collides with the hardened surface before fading down towards the floor, a shooting star for only a moment.

“That should do it.” With a final jet of compressed air the artist flicks the pen at the bottom of the piece to mark it as his own – an anonymous scrape to anyone else- and stands to appreciate his work.

As the client took his sunglasses off he was amazed at what he saw. Not a dent or a scratch, nothing. The artist placed a gloved hand on the bottom half and slowly angled it to adjust the perspective and the ridges alined to reveal the narwhal insignia on the reshaped limb. As if swimming towards the ground, it was a beautifully detailed imagining of the beast, crested with foaming waves  flowing up the clients leg

“They’re some of the oldest creatures in the ocean today. You know why?” The client asked, admiring the work.

“Enlighten me.”

The client swings the leg over the chair, the sharpened ridges singing through the air. From the knee joint the leg had been cut and modded, the foot and calve being removed altogether and a crisp tempered metal prism tapering from the knee down to a fine point at the end had been fitted in replacement. He lowers the leg down to the ground and pierces the tile it makes contact with, sending shards of ceramic outwards in all directions.

“They know how to fight back.”

A to Z April: M – Minute

Maud watches as her son discusses astrophysics with his father and she nods along in agreement, despite having little knowledge of the material they are covering. Her son’s eyes glisten like the stars he studies on a daily basis, She loves to watch him talk about what he has learned and what he plans on doing with it.

Taking the empty plates from dinner, she puts them into the dishwasher to complete the load and turns it on, taking in the hum and the swish of the water inside. She loves not having to do the dishes anymore, her hands ache from years of scrubbing but it was worth it to see her son grow up to be such an inspiration to her.

It is always around this time she slips off into the linen closet, swivels the dial by the door to light the room gently and opens a cupboard. Taller than she is, the cupboard hides a small flip-down chair which welcomes her into the space and a small charging port waits patiently.

She follows the same instructions every day: get situated (seated preferable), deep breath, relax, detach the charing cable from its port in the wall and the magnetics clip together at the base of the limb, to where it joins onto your body.

Pulling up her blouse slightly she reveals a small circular disc in her skin, just above her waistline and she sees a flash of the light blue transparent flesh joining onto her own. She clips the connector at the end on the cable onto her waist and feels the minuscule buzz of life as the electricity flows directly into her lower half. She had grown used to the distant sound of her son discussing the latest discovery and it gave her peace to know he was there, with her husband, sharing stories of their day. Only recently had she begun to notice the momentary hum  as magnets clipped together, it was so unnoticeable she had to concentrate hard to notice it at first. Now, she enjoys the feeling, it also brings her comfort.

The second METAL touches the port, she gets the same notification on her phone and she always clicks the link in the message, it feels like the right thing to do.

   “Hello there! Thank you for your continued care of your METAL product. You have received this message today to remind you of the single minute it takes to charge your part. Be it a hand, a lung, a kneecap or an eye, all it takes is one minute every day and you can continue to enjoy the highly personalised piece of technology you own with no hiccups.”

The woman on her screen talks with a calm and poise that has always relaxed Maud, especially in the beginning when the thought of charging was alien to her and she’d forget. For months she found herself on the floor of the kitchen or the bedroom, waiting for her husband to help her to the seat and hearing this woman’s voice was also a comfort for her, she knew when she heard that voice she had done what she needed to ensure her mobility was perfect and undisturbed.

   “Here at METAL, we like to encourage our customers to do something with their minute. Everyone has to do it, so everyone should do something with it! Read an article, write a book, listen to a song, talk with a loved one, eat something you enjoy. The possibilities for a minute are endless, you’d surprise yourself what you’re capable of in a minute. Tweet us with #myMETALminute and show us what you do with yours! Ok, you’ll be done by now, have a great day.”

And just like that, the port clips off automatically and retracts back into the wall as Maud tunes back in to the distant ramblings of her son in the dining room.  She closes the cupboard and returns to the lecture.

   “And so THAT is why infrared is one of the most useful waves in the universe right now-” Her son stops as he watches his mother come back from the linen closet, he pulls her chair out for her to sit down.

   “What did I miss?”

   “Not much mum, how was it?”

   “Amazing. As always.” Her son takes his seat again and smiles a warm smile.

   “I’m so glad. Nothing makes me happier than seeing you walk again.”

She sits back into her chair at the dining table as her METAL spine rests perfectly between the cushions. She reaches for her sons hand and holds it tight with a look in her eye that says a thousand words.

   “I know son, I know.”