Body of Theseus
Kovac had heard stories about excessive body upgrades and their effects on the mind and that insanity was common among young Mods–as people called them–who had too many body parts replaced. Serge was a veteran Mod, the veteran. Surely, he knew how to handle himself.
Before the news of the murders came in, Kovac had been thinking about the classical actress Jenny Agutter all day, specifically from her role in An American Werewolf in London as Nurse Alex Price. There was another actress she reminded him of, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Kovac was a bit of a film buff and he loved the films of the medium’s infancy from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
As Kovac thought about how maybe it was possible for a Mod hero like Serge Lament to go insane, he realized that it was Maggie Gyllenhaal, specifically from her role in Stranger Than Fiction as Ana Pascal, who reminded him of Nurse Alex. Kovac opened his eyes and looked out his small window at the city surrounding him, more conapt buildings stretching out across the ruined world, modifying it, slowly replacing it with gray lifeless slabs. He walked back to his breakfast nook, reaching out and touching his couch and his table as he passed. Then, he touched his palm hologram interface weaved into his hand in a beautiful pattern like a sigil of this Old Earth.
Kovac sat down in his breakfast nook and snapped his fingers. The hologram rose from the projection tube at the center of his hand and the translucent green orb O.S. revolved across his fingertips. Kovac flipped through the body mod catalog on his palm hologram interface, looking at the leg replacements. It had been about a hundred years and his current legs were starting to feel rickety and old. These last ten years, he had had to use a cane, but his meticulous saving had paid off. Selling one of his high-end eyes definitely helped too.
The palm interface cut out and a red blinking cube projected out of his palm reading, EMERGENCY! BUILDING SECURITY BREACH!
His front door automatically bolted shut and the wall screen flipped on. Kovac sat there in his government-size breakfast nook and watched the report on Serge Lament. The report abruptly cut away from the anchors to the live feed of Serge wandering the corridors of his conapt building. Little boxes of the live feeds from each occupied apartment popped up around the larger box of Serge’s uneven clambering down the hallway. It looked like they were all participating in a murder spree gameshow. The audience munched on Rally Brand Snack Pieces, anticipating each box to be X’ed out.
News Anchors cross-faded into the center box. Kovac thought the government correspondent looked a lot like the classical film actor Jeremy Irons and this whole affair made him want to watch the David Cronenberg film Dead Ringers, which was about twin brother gynecologists who use their identical appearance to secretly share women.
The twelve highlighted boxes at the bottom of the screen were drenched in blood and the dismembered, disemboweled bodies of his former neighbors were strewn across their apartments. Kovac noticed the box containing his own apartment and the feed of him watching the feed on and on into infinity. He thought about how terrible his haircut looked from the back, like he had allowed Serge to rip apart his hair. Kovac pulled out a bag of Rally Brand Snack Pieces and began snacking as he watched the wall screen. Serge Lament slotted a bypass remote into Elenore Hilbert’s door. He entered the apartment, ripped out Elenore’s eyes, and ate them. Serge then shoved his fingers inside Elenore’s face and cracked the man’s skull cap open.
“He’s not going to eat that, is he?” Kovac asked and ate a Rally Piece. All his neighbors and the audience heard him, his voice echoing through everyone’s wall screens.
Serge pulled out Elenore’s brain. It slipped out of his hand and tumbled onto the faux wood floor. He picked it up and ate it.
It wasn’t uncommon for the government to let a tragedy play, presumably for the elite’s own amusement. If this was a game show Kovac was going to take advantage of his airtime. Cybill would certainly see him. She was probably watching as he sat just there like a lifeless chump with a bad haircut, just like the thirteen bodies in their boxes. He shoved his own highly illegal bypass remote into his palm interface and turned off the emergency cube. He pulled up his music queue and selected his favorite classical song, Babies by Pulp. With a twirl of his wrist and tilt of his hips, Kovac unapologetically emulated the infectious moves of singer Jarvis Cocker.
Serge Lament bypassed Kovac’s locking mechanism and entered his apartment. The scientific name for a complete body transference–a complete body transference being the replacement of every part of one’s body from finger nails down to the pineal gland–is Complex Cadaver Transmorphesus. The Layman’s term is Body of Theseus, after the Greek myth of the merchant’s ship that over the years has every part, every sail and plank of wood replaced. The ultimate question in the end is, ‘Is it the same ship?’
As Serge Lament tore off Kovac’s skin, Kovac thought about what Cybill had told him that night at dinner about how old she really was and how she was about to have the procedure done that would replace her last original body part, her pineal gland, and eventually she wanted to turn herself into an indestructible cannibalistic creature that would eat every human. Before Kovac died, he thought about how beautiful Serge Lament looked, like Harrison Ford in his heyday.
Chase Griffin is a weird-fiction writer heavily influenced by David Lynch, Miranda July, the original writing staff of The Simpsons, Philip K. Dick, David Sedaris, and Ursula K. Le Guin. Griffin lives in Tampa and, yes, everything you’ve heard about Florida is true.