Cramping, Maurice dialed Dr. Tuttle Von Shtup, a cloning expert from Germany he met at a chemical conference earlier this year. “You know that experiment you told me about, Shtup?” Maurice gagged and groaned from the intense pains stabbing his abdomen. He didn’t even say hello, just got right down to business. He knew he didn’t have much time. “Yes, yes, Seraph. What of it? You have volunteer for me?” Shtup said. “Yeah. Me. Can’t go into details…” Maurice vomited on the floor, some of it splattering the receiver. “You need to send your team here. Now. MFS Chemicals. You know where.” “But the disposal…” “Let me worry about my own body’s disposal, Shtup. Just get here.” “But I need…” Maurice cramped so bad he dropped the phone. For one horrific moment, he thought this wasn’t going to work, that he was just going to die. “You told me you need a human trial, Shtup. I’m it. I’m your goddamn lab rat. Cholera is killing me and if you don’t send your goon squad your only chance at glory will be gone,” Maurice yelled into the phone with as much veracity as he could muster. He knelt, folding into the cramp and heard Shtup say the magic words. “We’ll be right there. Don’t dispose until we arrive.” The phone died and Maurice was alone with his pain. He knew the journey was a good hour for Shtup and his disposal freaks. He crawled to the drums where the pure perchloric acid was stored and leaned against the closest one, waiting for his salvation in the deserted loading bay. True to his word, 45 minutes later, Shtup arrived with his disposal team. The big body-builder types wearing biohazard suits worked fast. They opened a drum and stripped Dr. Maurice Seraph to his mottled skin. Maurice was shaking now, his life draining away. Dr. Shtup looked into his eyes and said, “We’ll do the head in the lab. He’s fading fast. Dip him.” And just like that, Maurice felt a blinding burst of pain, then nothing. He was going to die anyway. Might as well let the crazy German run his tests. Maurice was aware of the air and the cold metal slab beneath him. Voices chattered, medical machines beeped and buzzed and Maurice’s head hurt. He shifted on the table and heard a hard scraping sound. The voices stopped. He opened his eyes. Twelve pairs of eyes stared down at him from behind green doctor masks. “And how do you feel my bony friend? We were beginning to worry you’d never come to. I’m so glad you are here. Your new organs will be ready soon, but as soon as you are able, you are free to go,” Dr. Shtup said, radiance unbound. “I’m cold,” Maurice said, sending the people around him into hysterics. “Oh, do not be upset with my colleagues Dr. Seraph. Let me show you why they laugh,” Dr. Shtup said, helping Maurice to sit up, stand and walk on shaky legs over to a full-length mirror. The image reflected caught Maurice off guard. It was a skeleton. He turned his head right and the skeleton turned his head right. He looked down and saw tarsal, shin and pelvic bones instead of feet, legs and penis. He screamed. After he came to for the second time, Dr. Shtup explained to Maurice that he was the first human trial in the LFD cloning theory. Dr. Shtup said LFD meant “life from death” and was his pet theory that anyone can be taken to their basest pieces and rebuilt with new parts. The person will be the same as long as the brain is in tact, which requires no small amount of skill to preserve while stripping the skull of hair and tissue. “If I’m just a skeleton, why am I alive? I’m talking and functioning, but how is that possible without organs? Without a heart?” Dr. Shtup smiled. “Implants. Very small, attached at the genetic level. Touchy work. You won’t need to eat, but you will need to sleep. And you can do everything else…” Dr. Shtup paused and looked down. “Except sex. But this is temporary.” “What will I look like?” Maurice said, shivering. He never appreciated how insulating skin was. “Oh, you will look exactly as yourself and no one will be the wiser,” Dr. Shtup said, adding, “It may take a few weeks to grow your organs large enough and to generate enough skin and hair, but you will be pleased I think. And best of all, you’ll be immune to cholera!” Dr. Shtup leaned in to Maurice and whispered, “I built that and some other helpful surprises into your DNA sequence. I think you will truly be pleased.” He leaned back and stood. “I have rounds to finish, but the nurses will help you check out. Please come back next week and we will begin the rebuilding process of the new and improved Dr. Maurice Seraph and then you will accompany me to the medical conference in Geneva where I will present my findings to the U.N.” Maurice remembered how he got himself into this mess. All because of a stupid dare, he thought, standing and walking toward the door. I’ll never get used to that clicking when I walk. Maurice bicycled along the edge of the lake where cholera invaded his intestines. On a colleague’s dare, he jumped in that lake last month on the way to work at MFS Chemicals. Only recently did he find out from a Nigerian colleague that the locals call the place “cholera hell” in the native tongue. So much for trust. He gazed at the glowing burnt umber sky and ignored the screams and gasps of the people he passed. Uneducated peasants. How could they understand? He was on his way to get his new body, made stronger and better through science. This was the happiest and proudest moment of Maurice’s life.
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