Freedom From Choice

by Heather St. Claire

                The little man across the desk from me was talking, but I was having a hell of a time focusing on what he was saying. I had my left leg crossed on top of my right, and was nervously jiggling my left foot. It was distracting me; hell, it had to have been distracting him, but I couldn’t seem to stop.

                A few words, the important ones, seemed to be breaking through the haze, “ all our qualifications for conversion into a servant android......”  “.....your psychological profile is unusually suited....” Even though I seemed to be about to get what I wanted, the reality wasn’t sinking in yet.

                God, my mind was a mass of jumbled, confused, thoughts--as usual! I was worried about my looks. I had tried to get myself together, but I knew with the short dress I was wearing, my too-liberally applied makeup, and my piercings and tattoos, I looked more like an aging hooker than anything else.

                There was a dull throbbing inside my head that never seemed to go away anymore. Oh God, what I would have given at that moment for a cigarette, a drink....anything to numb the pain for a few moments. I had to keep telling myself that if I got what I wanted here, I would soon never know pain again.

                And wouldn’t that be an amazing thing? For almost every one one of my 33 years, I had known little but pain, physical, psychological, or both. All of a sudden, I was aware of a silence. I realized that the little man had asked me a question.

                “I’m sorry,” I said. “What was it you wanted to know?”

                “Oh, it’s just about your tattoos. I notice you have a lot of them, especially on your arms. Your buyer has specified that he wants your body without ornamentation. Will that be a problem?”

                “Huh?...Oh, not at all.” I held up my arms and looked briefly at the elaborate designs that were drawn onto them. These had been the product of yet another whim, yet another bad choice. I had been proud of them, for a while. Now, they primarily marked me as a biker slut.

                What was going through this little guy’s mind, I briefly wondered. Looking at me, he undoubtedly saw the ruins of a once-beautiful woman. I was still 5 feet, 8 inches tall. My once luxuriant, shiny brown hair was brittle, dry and thinning.

                Once, I had been told my eyes were beautiful. But now, they were perpetually bloodshot, and there were dark circles under them that never went away. As a child, my cheeks seemed to have a naturally rosy glow; but that had vanished a long time ago, and was only replicated with liberal use of cosmetics.

                I didn’t smile much anymore. Not only did I have little reason to, what had once been an attractive smile was no longer, thanks to advanced periodontal disease and getting slugged in the face a couple of times, once by a dealer, once by a pimp, once by a date...okay, make it three times.

                Oh, I could go on and on about how my tits sagged, my nails were perpetually yellowed, chipped and brittle, but I would just be depressing you and me even further. But soon, it wouldn’t matter anymore. I was about to have my beauty restored, and all the pain taken away.

                “Look, mister, when can we get through all these preliminaries, and get my change started? You--you can’t imagine how eager I am to put my old life behind me.”

                He looked at me with an expression that was a mixture of puzzlement and sympathy. “Now Miss, I can appreciate your feelings, but you have to understand our position here. What you are doing here is no less than voluntarily signing away your human life. You are agreeing to be converted into a servant and pleasure android, who will be programmed to do the bidding of your buyer. We have to be certain that you are taking this step of your own free choice.”

                My mind began racing back to all the decisions I had made in my life, all the wonderful results of my “free choice.” I started smoking at 9, drinking at 10, fooling with drugs at 11. I lost my virginity at 12, and well, it had all been pretty much downhill from there. Yes, thanks to my free choice, I had come pretty close to destroying my life. But now, for the first time in who knows how long, I felt a sense of peaceful calm settling over me.

                I knew that this last free choice I would ever make would be my best one. For me, freedom from choice would be the path to happiness and fulfillment.

                I wish I could have watched the process, but I knew that was impossible. I spent the night before in a hospital bed; my last night as a human. Two burly male attendants showed up the next morning to lift me onto a gurney. Soon, I was being wheeled into the conversion chamber.

                I was still groggy from the sedatives of the night before; so the anesthetic did its work quickly.

                I had no idea how much time had passed when consciousness returned. Already, I knew things were different, better. But I couldn’t articulate my thoughts; suddenly, I realized it was a mass of ones and zeroes racing through my robotic brain at lightspeed. “Primary programming complete. Unit functioning within normal parameters,” a strage, but welcome voice inside me seemed to say. Then, the part that I considered “me,” registered the thought, “I feel fantastic!”

                My eyelids popped open. Everything was preternaturally clear and bright. Everything looks so good, I thought. It’s all so vivid. My longer a painful jumble. They’re logical, ordered.....positive. I guess I would even say, happy. My brain still contained all my memories, the essence of my personality, but it was as if all the garbage had been wiped away, and I had been given a chance to start clean.

                Then, there was my new physical form.

                I didn’t feel unnatural, mechanical, or anything like that. I thought to myself, This is the way it’s supposed to feel. This is right. This is so right. There was no sign of pain anywhere--no headache, no stiffness in my lower back, no residual throb in my leg from where it was broken in three places in that motorcycle accident a couple of years ago. I felt healthy, strong, good!

                I saw an attractive woman who I assumed to be about my age looking down at me. “Hello, Karen,” she said with a smile. “Welcome to your new life.”

                “Thank you,” I said. I realized that I was smiling back at her. How long had it been since I felt like smiling?

                “I’m Dr. Adams,” she said. “Your transformation was a complete success. Would you like to get up and take a look at yourself?”

                “Of course,” I said, quickly rising from the table. Strange, I thought, I don’t feel one bit like a sophisticated machine; I just feel healthy, energetic, good. There was a three-way mirror just a few steps away. I gasped when I looked at the reflection. Staring back at me was a body I hadn’t seen in more than a decade, and I really hadn’t looked this good then.

                My hair was full and lustrous; I happily ran my hands through it. I realized that my eyes were shining and my smile was full and perfect. From my forehead to my toes, there wasn’t a mole, a scar, a tattoo, a needle mark, a freckle...not one imperfection was visible anywhere on my skin. My breasts were round and perfect and firm. I had literally been perfected and reborn.

                “Oh, Dr. Adams,” I gushed. “How can I ever thank you?”

                She patted my bare shoulder in a friendly, almost paternalistic fashion. “Just serve your new owner well, dear,” she told me.

                “Thanks,” I said with a chuckle. “But if I understand correctly, my programming won’t allow me to do anything else.”

                “That’s right dear,” she said. “Your primary program calls for you to serve his every need and wish. The more successful you are at that, the happier you will be.”

                “I just still find it hard to believe that...that I’m a machine now.”

                “Well, hold still then,” she said matter of factly. She pressed two invisible release points on my temples, and my face plate came off in her hands. I saw my eyes and two rows of perfect teeth staring out from a mass of circuitry. Before I had the chance to react, Dr. Adams produced an electornic unit about the size of a toaster. “And you need to know about this, dear.”

                She pressed her finger into my navel, pulled, and opened an invisible panel. More circuits, diodes, pipes, and an outlet. She took a cord and connected one end to the “toaster,” the other end “This is your charging and diagnostic unit,” Dr. Adams explained. “Once a week should do it, under normal circumstances. It’s all pretty easy and self explanatory.”

                She put the panel and my face plate back in place. Perhaps she expected me to be horrified by the reality of my transformation, But no, I was pleased on a whole new level. Now I knew my body couldn’t give out from cancer, the way my mother’s had when I was six; or from the ravages of drink, like my father’s had when I was 12.

                Oh, sure, things could still go wrong with this body. But unlike the human body, there was nothing in mine that couldn’t be fixed. Dr. Adams realized I was lost in thought. “Dear? Come back to the party, please.” Instantly, my attention was focused on Dr. Adams and the present moment. I was an empty vessel, ready for direction.  “Now, why don’t you go get dressed and get your things together. Mr. Willoughby will be here to pick you up within the hour.”

                It had been a friendly suggestion, but for me, it carried all the force of a command. From this moment forward, I would no longer have to make any decisions about myself, or my future. It would all be mapped out for me.  Yes, bad things could still happen to me, but if they did, it would be random fate or someone else’s mistake. Not mine.

                I was a machine. I was a servant. I was finally free.


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