City of Lights

Wyld FLASH September 24th 2021

MM Schreier

Rose folded her hands on her lap, the skin spotted and papery thin. Her knuckles were swollen and fingers stiff.

I won’t miss all these aches and pains.

Her foot twitched and the blanket covering her legs slipped. One of the nursebots zoomed over to tuck it back in but she waived it away. “Let me feel the cold one last time.” 

The machine whirred and tilted. Rose chuckled. It looked like a golden retriever trying to make sense of her words. 

A knock came at the door and the nursebot flitted back to its docking bay as the Technician entered the room. He glanced at a handheld screen. “Miss Rose Austin?”

Rose gave him a shaky smile. “It’s time then?” Her voice sounded reedy in her ears, but she remembered when it had been a rich contralto.

The Technician crossed the room and straightened the blanket over her legs. “I can give you a few more minutes if you like, but we’re in the optimal transfer window.”

You’ve done this before. It’s not a big deal.

“No, I’m fine. Best to get it over with.”

Tapping on his screen, the Technician pursed his lips. “It looks like this is your seventeenth Transfer?” He looked up and let out a low whistle. “You must be a pro then.” 

Rose tried not to roll her eyes.

Do they all have to make that joke? 

She watched as he bustled around the bed, checking wires and documenting her vitals. 

“So, I know you’ve been through this all before, but just a few reminders. While it will feel real, everything you experience during Transfer is a vision, nothing more.” He glanced at the screen and his eyes widened. “It looks like you’ve ordered a Premier Organic BioPrinted vessel over a recycled model. Excellent choice. I’ll just have you sign off here, giving Transfigure Today full possession of your discarded vessel and any residual memories that do not complete Transfer.” 

He pointed to the screen and for a moment Rose hesitated. 

After so many Transfers, how much have I lost?

Her breath wheezed in her chest and her toes felt numb. Her current vessel was failing; she had no choice but to sign. Reaching out a shaky hand, she dropped it palm-down on the screen. A tiny jolt rippled through her fingers.

The Technician examined the thermal print of her hand, then nodded. “Looks like everything is in order. Now just settle back and I’ll get you connected for the Transfer.”

He dropped the screen on a table and fiddled around, attaching probes to her skin– temples, collarbones, wrists. She grimaced. The adhesive would tear when they removed it. 

Not that it matters. It’s their vessel now.

Satisfied, the Technician twisted a dial and punched a few buttons on the Consciousness Transfer 2100. It clicked on with a faint hum. The newer models were so different from the early versions with their clicks and vibrations and constant beeping.

“Lie back now and close your eyes.” He took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “This will be over before you know it.”

Rose settled back on the overstuffed pillow. The probes warmed against her skin and her breathing slowed. Something tugged at her mind, a wave of static. It washed over her in a gentle rhythm, pulling her along with it as it retreated. Like the sense of sand being washed away from beneath her feet, except everywhere at once.

Bit by bit, she felt herself separating from the old vessel. She floated like stardust. Below, she could see her synapses firing, bright lights in a sea of darkness, connected by a highway of threads. It looked like a cityscape—a metropolis that refused to sleep. As she drifted farther away, she smiled. 

How can I smile when I no longer have lips?

A shadow materialized on the horizon. The mind-form that had once been Rose hovered. The shape seemed hauntingly familiar. A small girl holding a glow-in-the-dark yoyo. She wavered as if seen through rain-spotted glass.

The youngster tossed her messy locks and waved. Her mouth moved, gushing words in a waterfall—the tirade of an excited child showing off a new skill. The void devoured the words.

I can’t hear you, Aimee. Speak a little louder.

Aimee. The mind-form rippled. Who was Aimee? 

The synapse city pulsed rose-red. Untransfered memories floated like ghosts. 

A child lost too soon. Before Transfer technology had gone mainstream.

The mind-form reached for her daughter, but the sand sucking wave pulled at her again.


One by one, the lights flickered out and the ghosts retreated to the darkened city.


Rose swallowed, her mouth dry. Her eyes fluttered open.

“Slowly now.” A Technician in a white lab coat looked down at her. “How do you feel?”

Empty. Like something’s missing.

She didn’t vocalize the thought. “A little shaky, but not too bad.” She stretched her new arms and looked at the smooth skin of her hands. Strong and young.

The Technician grinned. “Congratulations. Your Transfer went without a hitch. Enjoy your new vessel. You should rest here for about an hour, then we’ll get you processed out.” He gestured toward the window, where bright sunshine streamed through the curtains. “It’s a beautiful day for a run!”

Rose nodded. 

Maybe she’d get a hovercycle. She’d crashed the last one she had, three or four vessels ago. She didn’t want to wait until she was old to Transfer again. 

I need to go back to the city of lights.

She shook her head. What an odd thought.

Author Bio: MM Schreier is a classically trained vocalist who took up writing as therapy for a mid-life crisis. Whether contemporary or speculative fiction, favorite stories are rich in sensory details and weird twists. A firm believer that people are not always exclusively right- or left-brained, in addition to creative pursuits Schreier manages a robotics company and tutors maths and science to at-risk youth. Recent publications can be found in All Worlds Wayfarer, Dream of Shadows, and Curiosities. Additional listings can be found at:

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