Re-bodification

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When Matt Harmon heard that he had been restored to life in a cloned body after having his brain preserved for seventy-one years, he wasn't sure what to say.

The doctor read his mind. "Let's start with how you died. Burst appendix. According to the police and coroner's reports, you were driving at excessive speed when you rammed into an SUV at a stop light. Maybe you blacked out at the wheel? You were rushed to the hospital and kept unconscious while they treated you for cracked ribs and a collapsed lung. By the time they noticed the burst appendix, you had gone septic. You were pronounced dead a couple hours later."

"I don't remember that," Matt said.

"That's not unusual. Accident victims often have no memory of a traumatic event and the moments leading up to it. The brain doesn't have time to consolidate the information. What is the last thing you do remember?"

Pain. Pain like nothing he had ever felt before. Raw and corrosive. Like a balloon filled with acid had just exploded in his gut and was chewing holes in his insides. Crawling on the floor to get his keys, which were on the dresser. Dragging himself up by the dresser handles. Vomiting up bile. Now the long crawl to the garage. Lunge and collapse. Repeat. "I remember trying to get to my car."

"Why didn't you call 911? Your phone was found in your pocket."

"It didn't occur to me." Stricken thoughtless by the pain, he had acted purely on impulse. After all those times of driving Miriam to the ER in the middle of the night, the routine had been drilled into him. Two years after she left, finally cancer free, plastic sheeting still covered the back seat to make it easier to clean the puke.

"You did make one astute decision," said the doctor. "You had the foresight to choose head preservation."

"I must have checked the box on the annual medical enrollment," Matt said. "Some kind of supplemental life insurance? It was more of an afterthought, really."

"A lot of the best decisions are." The doctor took out a pen light and shone it in his pupils. "Stare straight ahead at the wall, please."

A wall screen displayed a diagram of the nervous system. It resembled a man-of-war jellyfish extending long tendrils out to the extremities. Bright pulses traveled back and forth along them.

"Follow my index finger." The doctor moved it up and down and side to side. He snapped his fingers and Matt flinched. "Sensory integration is looking good. Booting up old thought patterns into a new body requires a bit of recalibration."

"My body has been..." Matt searched for the right word. "Replaced?"

"The pattern of neural connections, your connectome, was read out of your old brain and imprinted on a new one in a cloned body. Re-bodification, in simple language. Here, have a look at the new you."

The wall screen changed to a mirror. The man reflected in it was both familiar and strange. His complexion contained more cream and less tallow. The ape-ish brow ridges were reduced in size, letting more light reach his eyes, transforming them from sludge brown to woody hazel. The birthmark on his right cheek was gone along with all the crinkles and sags accumulated over four decades of living. His hair had filled out and migrated forward. His body was lean and angular. He was handsome in a bookish way.

"I hope you find it to your liking," the doctor said. "We made some cosmetic alterations and eliminated hereditary defects such as an enlarged appendix." He leaned forward with a stethoscope and listened to Matt's heart. The wall screen changed to a diagram of the circulatory system, the model heart beating in time to his own, low and steady with a resonance like a plucked cello. The doctor let the stethoscope drop with a satisfied nod. "There are some side effects to re-bodification. You may experience heightened sexual arousal, impulsive tendencies and bouts of restless agitation. It's a result of having your middle-aged consciousness hot-wired into an eighteen-year-old body. Some people describe it as feeling all revved up, like getting behind the wheel of a Formula One race car. You can mentally override these sensations and most people quickly adapt, even come to appreciate them."

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