Clive woke with something gnawing at his brain. He knew he had something to do today, but he couldn’t remember what. Before he could get out from under the covers, a commercial came on his TV screen as if it were waiting for the moment he opened his eyes. A man, so nondescript that simply the word “man” would do, began his pitch.
Is your world a bright shade of dread?
Don’t worry; our angels will flock to your bed.
Sit back, relax, and let their signals feed your head.
We will clear the filth away like a scalpel to the body of the willing dead.
Clive looked at his clock. 7:45 am. It must be wrong, he thought. He didn’t hear the morning traffic and there was no sunlight spilling through his windows. He figured he had some time before he needed to get up.
We know living can be hard. Believe me, it isn’t for everyone.
We are here for you, and we are here to do it for you.
Don’t think. Don’t speak. Shut down and just be.
Life is a prison, but you can escape!
Clive glanced at his new sneakers and noticed cobwebs consuming their bright blue. He bought them to get in shape for something, but for what? His eyes wandered, still bleary, and he noticed a tuxedo lying on the floor. The hanger was still in the blazer. Before he could wonder what it could be doing there, the commercial drew him in once more.
Be whomever you want. Souls are on demand. Try one on for size. If it doesn’t fit, try another. It’s as easy as changing the channel. Our highly skilled operators successfully manage thousands with flawless results.
Clive watched as the nondescript man stepped over to a model of the human body, and in a flash, ripped out its heart. The man held the vital organ up in his hand.
Touch the future — it doesn’t hurt.
Clive felt a pang. He wasn’t sure what it was exactly. Sadness? Relief? It wasn’t that he didn’t care to figure out what he was feeling; he just didn’t want to miss what the man on TV was going to say next.
The human heart, sheltered deep within your body, would not survive for very long on the outside. You are the heart. Let us be the body. We will protect you and keep you secure from anything that doesn’t belong.
As Clive reached up to scratch his face, it wasn’t the full beard that surprised him; it was when he got a glimpse of his arm. His strong, young arm looked like that of a man twice his age. He felt a well of panic, like vomit, but then the man spoke, and he was soothed.
Are you sick of looking up to the sky in prayer and never receiving a response? I can promise you that will never happen again. How, you ask? Because god is being syndicated on all major channels. We carry every religion you will ever need. Digital gospels at your bed and in your head!
Clive noticed a dusty picture frame and the box with the ring on his dresser. Through the layers of dead skin on the glass, he barely caught a glimpse of a woman. What was her name? Surely he should know. The man on his television began again.
We begin with sterilizing. Cleaning out all the bad things you have stored up inside you. This is completely painless and only takes a few minutes. All you have to do is not blink as our special images flood your television. After that, the world is yours. Our operators will guide you through the menu until we have found the perfect person we want you to be.
Clive looked away for a second, wondering what it was he had to do today. He turned and looked back at the television, pulled the covers up to his chin. There was always tomorrow.
It’s time to put your dreams to bed.
And remember, life will go on, but only if you let it.
Our daily sterilization programming will begin in 5, 4, 3, 2…
Outside his window the ash caked building censored the sun, which was burning with all its might to break through, almost as if it were trying to revive him.
Below, newspapers blew down deserted streets. A rusted airport taxi slowly decayed into the pavement. Traffic lights crackled and bled electricity into the air, and in all the windows of all the buildings that fed this city you could faintly see the glowing calm of a television on.
Shaun Simon is an American writer. His short story “Snowman” won the Preditors and Editors annual readers poll for best short story in 2010. He is also writing “The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” with Gerard Way for Dark Horse Comics.