1. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

    Sep 7, 2013
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    (Contains Religious Themes)

    Squares, I thought. Through the swirling coloured dots, I could definitely make out squares. As the colours faded and the movement slowed I began to see strips between the them.

    A ceiling. I blinked, then blinked again. My face felt stiff, mouth dry. Arms, hands, legs, I could move them but it was difficult. At least they don't hurt. There was noise, muffled and garbled. I managed to turn my head and saw desks with people behind them. They looked at me and spoke to each other. They seemed agitated.

    A man from the group stepped forwards. "Hello" he said, in a far more decisive tone of voice than you might expect for such a casual statement. "Tell...me...your...name" he said as if he were speaking to an almost deaf person.

    The words seemed familiar but their meaning eluded me. Then, through the half consciousness, the reply came. "I.. Ri..cud" It was difficult, "Ric..ad And...un". The sound was barely audible. I repeated my name and each time it became louder and clearer. "Ric-aad Andu-un".

    The man turned to his colleges, "Did you get that? He said his name's Richard Anderson."

    Turning back me he said, "When were you born?"

    "Septem b-twel, six teethree." My voice seemed to be working reasonably well now although it was still a struggle.

    I must be in a hospital. I must have been in an accident and been knocked out for a while.

    He turned back to his colleges, "His date of birth's the twelfth of September sixty three."

    "I'll do a search" said the younger man, "Richard Anderson, twelve, 'o' nine, twenty one, sixty three".

    "No." I muttered. "That's not right. Not twenty one. Nineteen. Nineteen sixty three". They all stared at me. Then they stared at each other.

    I struggled to sit up but the man who'd spoken to me gestured for me to remain lying. I looked at my hands. I turned them to inspect both sides.

    "These," I said, "are not my hands."

    The staff seemed to be at a loss as to what to do.

    There was a sheet covering my body. I tried to grip it to pull it back. What kind of a state am I in?

    "Don't do that" the younger man said. "Just stay calm, I'll explain everything. We're trying to understand what's happened. Please wait".

    I waited. The room became clearer. It was clean and modern.

    "He's definitely in there" came a female voice, "No doubt about it. It's a full transfer."

    "How can it be a full transfer?" said the older man, "The patient is in other room, conscious."

    "It could be schizophrenia. Maybe just one personality. I'll check the medical records."

    None of this made any sense to me. "I'd like to see my body" I said, "I want to know."

    The younger man held the sheet ready, "You have a new body. It's synthetic so it won't be familiar to you and there are cables to it that are only temporary so don't be concerned about those." He pulled back the sheet.

    I looked down at my body. It looked like that of a healthy young man. It was almost lifelike but not quite. There was a bundle of cables to my abdomen where a panel of skin was obviously missing.

    They asked me what I could remember. But nothing came to mind. Have I lost my memory? I wondered. Or perhaps I just haven't woken up properly yet.

    It wasn't long before I was sitting up. They asked specific questions. I had some strong memories of a woman and a child. I assumed they'd been my wife and son but I couldn't remember their names. "Where are they" I asked, "I want to see them".

    The technicians looked at each other, wondering what to say. "It's been a long time" said the younger man eventually.

    They told me that it had been over two hundred years since my date of birth and they had no idea how I came to be there. They'd been in the process of transferring the mind of a patient into a new synthetic body when I'd just woken up in it.

    I have a new body and a new life. I tried to think of my wife and son but only had vague memories, Two hundred years? They must be all gone now. I couldn't grieve for them, In my mind I'd seen them only recently and for all I knew they'd gone on to live into old age. I'd been the one who'd died. I couldn't remember how though.

    The cables were disconnected and with considerable help, I took his first steps. Physically, my new body was in perfect working order. I just needed to learn how to use it. The staff seemed very nice and were keen to see me walking.


    As the days passed, I become more accustomed to my new body I became more able to move around. At first, moving my limbs had been like operating a machine by remote control. It felt as though I was pulling on levers to work a mechanical digger. Gradually this changes to simply thinking of how I wanted to move and my limbs would respond. It was as if my mind had extended to occupy my body so I could just move it directly, instead of thinking how to.

    I was given my own room. It was small but with a surprisingly large television. I found all the programs interesting. The news, documentaries and discussion programs gave a glimpse of life in, what was to me, the distant future. It reminded me of the time when I ran home from school to turn on the family's new colour TV. I remembered sitting in wonder at the moving colour picture. It was tennis. I had no interest in tennis but it was fascinating. It was strange. I could remember watching tennis but I couldn't remember my wife's name.

    The local news reported on violent clashes in different areas in the city. There was also a report on people complaining about delays at security checkpoints. There was a celebrity breakup. "She believes this organisation to be nothing but a cult and refuses to allow her children to attend" said the reporter. There was also a report on a group of scientist who were trying to have creationism removed from the schools science curriculum.

    I received a visitor, an expert on the twentieth century. Cassandra was a synthetic, like me. Her body and face had clearly been designed to be very beautiful but at the cost of realism. Her oversized eyes and mouth and very smooth tight skin made her look like a cartoon character. She was very impressive but scary. Putting herself definitely in charge, she asked me questions. I could answer some but not others. I had the impression that she was testing me to see if I was genuinely from the twentieth century. Although I found her attractive, I was glad to see her leave.

    "People are very interested in your story" said Judith, the female technician. "No one's ever come back from the dead before. Except Jesus of course."

    "Are you religious?" I asked. I was somewhat surprised that religion still existed.

    "Well," replied Judith, "not as much as I should be. I suppose."

    "I never bothered myself" I said, "apart from weddings and funerals, I didn't see the point."

    Judith seemed puzzled, "But you do believe in God, don't you?"

    "Not really. I've never really known what to believe. Why, is that a problem?"

    "Some say you're Jesus. Second coming. You're back from the dead you see. Only Jesus comes back from the dead." Judith seemed embarrassed as if she'd said something she wasn't meant to.

    Could I be Jesus? I had no recollection of living in the first century and if I was Jesus then the life that I could vaguely remember would have been the second coming. So I'd be on the third coming now. I knew I couldn't do any miracles and I had no inclination to be religious at all. So no, I most probably wasn't Jesus. But still, I couldn't help but wonder.

    I was curious about the workings of my new body. I visited the workshop area attached to the medical facility where I was staying. The workshop had an almost surgical cleanliness about it. I spoke to Matthew, who seemed to be in charge and was given a guided tour. The main area was where each body was put together and there were several other areas where subassemblies were constructed. Matthew was happy to show me around and explain what everything was. He said that the all the individual parts were made by other companies and the workshop was only for assembly and testing. There was also an office for the designers and programmers. I was fascinated by everything I saw.

    "There's a film crew coming" said Judith. "You need to be a bit careful. I expect they'll ask you all about life after death and about your religious beliefs. Whatever you say, don't say you don't believe. If they ask you any religious questions just say you're not sure or that you haven't thought about it. They might want to catch you out".

    The film crew arrived and after setting themselves up the interview began. I was asked about my memories of the twentieth century and about what I thought of my current situation. My memories were very vague and my only recent experience was of the place where I was, so there wasn't much to tell. The interviewer soon moved on to my 'in-between lives' experience. I thought this was a very polite way to put it.

    Unfortunately, I couldn't remember anything about that. The interviewer didn't give up and was relentless in his questioning. He pressed me to speculate as to what might have happened but I didn't want to make things up, especially concerning such a serious topic. I soon ran out of ways to say 'I don't know' and the crew were eventually asked to leave.

    When they'd left, I asked Judith what she'd meant by 'catch you out'.

    "You can get into real trouble if you commit blasphemy these days and they keep changing the rules. I'd bet it was much simpler in your day" she said.

    "So blasphemy is actually a crime is it?" I asked.

    Judith stared at me. "Hasn't it always been?" she said incredulously.

    I explained that in the twentieth century people valued the freedom to say whatever they wanted. I told her that people would defend the rights of others to speak their minds, even if they didn't agree with their points of view.

    "But why would you support someone that you don't agree with? That's just stupid" retorted Judith. The comment caught me off guard. I hadn't expected such a simplistic response from someone who was obviously very intelligent. We stared at each other.

    "Anyway" said Judith eventually, "The interview earned you quite a bit of money so you're well on your way now".

    I hadn't thought about how I might earn a living or about what might happen to me if I didn't. And I wondered what Judith meant by 'on your way'.

    One of the managers came to see me, Mr. Jeremiah Jenkins, or Jerry as he preferred to be called. He explained that I was in a very unusual position. "Synthetic bodies aren't available to everyone, you have to be considered worthy of extended life. It's only great achievers or celebrities who can have them and they still have to pay a significant sum for the new body and the mind transfer procedure." He explained that it was a system that had to be adhered to strictly with no exceptions or many would feel cheated. "So we have a bit of a problem with you" he said, "You're the exception to the rules." He told me not to worry as the public interest in my case meant that achieving the status of minor celebrity wouldn't be difficult and I should easily earn enough money to pay the expenses.

    I agreed to play along at being interviewed, appearing on TV shows and to collaborate with an author to produce a book. None of this seemed like any great hardship.


    I was keen to see the world outside and a trip was arranged.

    Judith introduced me to David, her boyfriend. He had a large grin that seemed to be at least a little false. When I stretched out my hand, he was clearly unsure of the situation. Perhaps he's just nervous. We shook hands and then headed to the exit to begin our time outside. David drove and Judith sat with me on the back seat, no doubt to keep me company.

    The car was much like the cars I remembered, except it was quieter, smoother and looked far more expensive both outside and in. "I was expecting cars to be flying by now" I said playfully. My companions laughed. "I suppose I do have an old-fashioned view of the future" I added. Judith smiled politely but I don't think either of them got the joke.

    I looked through the window. "Do you recognise anything?" asked Judith. We were in a city. There were other vehicles, people walking around, buildings and walkways. I knew I'd seen such these things before but I didn't recognise any in particular.

    "We can go to the cathedral first" said Judith.

    I was expecting a fantastic feat of modern architecture with expanses of glass and metal but when we drove near I was disappointed. "But it's old" I said, "why have you brought me here?"

    "It's a really beautiful place" said Judith, "I thought you'd like it."

    I remembered being taken to historic buildings by my parents on family holidays and feeling very bored. "We had buildings like that in the twentieth century and they were old then" I said. "Can we go somewhere new? I'd like to see something I haven't seen before".

    David seemed to understand my point of view but Judith seemed disappointed. We drove around aimlessly for a while. I looked through the window. "Is there an airport near here?" I asked, "I'm sure the aeroplanes will be new. I like aeroplanes." But the airport was many miles away. Eventually we parked the car and walked down a street of shops. My gate was somewhat awkward, I seemed to be limping with both legs. I was concerned about falling over. That would be really embarrassing and I wondered if my companions would be strong enough to pick me up. We stopped frequently to look at the shop window displays. There were many interesting new products. I recognised what most of them were but others were mysteries to me.

    We came to a clothes shop with several mannequins in the window, showing off the latest fashions. I looked at the strange humanoid objects and although I knew exactly what they were, I couldn't quite understand them. I remembered looking at such a display when I was a child and being frightened. I imagined the figures coming to life, breaking the glass and stepping out onto the street, the people running and screaming at the sight of the monsters. In the dark background of the display I could see the reflection of another mannequin. This one was standing outside the shop. I turned my head and the thing moved! My nightmare was real. I wanted to run and scream. In all the scary dreams I'd had, I was sure I'd only ever ran from the monsters. I'd never actually been one!

    "Are you alright?" asked Judith.

    What? I thought. It seemed like such a stupid question. How could I possibly be 'alright'? And then again, how could there be anything wrong with me?

    I looked down at my body, shoes, trousers, jacket, they all seemed perfectly normal. "These.... are not my hands" I said eventually.

    We ended up sitting in the park. I felt I'd been silly. Me, of all people, afraid of a shop window dummy! But I supposed it had all been just a bit too close to home. "Those shops we passed looked interesting" I said. "The windows were stuffed full of thing I've never seen before. The park's nice too." I remembered feeling at home in a natural environment. Perhaps I'd felt an emotional connection with other living things, trees, grass, the occasional nervous squirrel. I looked at the paving slabs on the pathway and the steel of the bench and realised that I had more in common with these lifeless things now. It was strange. I was surrounded by nature and it all felt alien to me.

    Jubilee Road. The words seemed to float across my mind. “I remember Jubilee Road. I think I used to live there. Could we go there?”

    Judith tapped at her phone. “I’ve found it” she said brightly but then her excitement suddenly turned to disappointment, “Oh, it’s in a Muslim area. We’d need to go through a checkpoint and I don’t think we can, not without an identity card for you.” Judith explained that the request for official documentation had been passed around several government departments and none of them knew what to do. They'd all asked for a birth certificate and when they'd been told that there wasn't one had assumed that I was from a foreign country. Apparently, my date of birth had been a bit of a sticking point too.

    “It’s a Muslim area anyway. It won’t be safe. You know what they're like” added David. I gave him a puzzled look. I had an idea of what he meant but I wanted him to elaborate. “They don’t like Christians there or synthetics” he said.

    “Is this it?” asked Judith as she showed me her phone. It displayed a photo of apartment buildings, trees and footpaths.

    “No, that's not it, I remember terraced houses.”

    “It might have been demolished” she explained, “I’ll see if I can find an old building nearby. Perhaps you’ll recognise that." She operated her phone and soon brought up another image, "Here, how about this?”

    The picture was certainly of an old building. It seemed familiar. “I think that used to be a pub. I might have gone drinking there”. But I couldn't be sure.

    “Drink what?” asked David.

    “Beer”. But David seemed to be unfamiliar with the concept. I hoped I hadn’t mixed up my words and said completely the wrong thing.

    "It's an Islamic study centre now" said Judith as she looked at the phone.

    "Hm" said David sharply. "I don't see why they should allow things like that. It's not like you get any points for it anyway. This is meant to be a Christian country. It's the planning offices' fault. They must have to get planning permission for something like that."

    I asked about 'points'. Judith explained that status points are awarded for achievement. Gaining a qualification in Christian theology would earn you a significant number of points but studies in other religions wouldn't. "Other religions are just false religions, not true knowledge at all" she said. She explained that Muslims were not happy about the situation and thought it unfair.

    "But they're free to come to church if they want the points" added David. "Or they could go to live in a Muslim country if they really want to".

    There were several people in the park. One of them caught my eye as she was behaving oddly, loitering near a family."What's that woman doing over there?" I asked, pointing at a figure in overalls.

    "Oh she'll be a penitent." replied David. I looked at him expectantly and he continued, "She'll have been in prison for a while and now she's doing a kind of work experience as a domestic servant. It a kind of rehabilitation for them".

    I thought the arrangement sounded like a rally good idea.

    Judith seemed a little down and I suspected I was to blame by rejecting her idea of visiting the cathedral. David seemed to cling to his grin with a relentless determination. There was little else to do so I suggested we walk in that direction taking in the shops on the way. "I would quite like to see it actually" I lied.


    I'd often visit the workshop. The staff were very nice to me but I felt I was being a nuisance. I learned that my new synthetic brain as essentially a collection of neural network circuits which were a kind of computer. "They're fundamentally different to the computers in your phone or on your credit card" said Matthew. "They don't really calculate their answers, they guess. They're not programmed in the traditional sense, they're trained. No one actually knows how they work, even the physical circuits have been developed through trial and error." Matthew gave me a copy of the companies entire document archive. He wasn't meant to but it suppose I was taking up a lot of their time.

    The body nearing completion in the main area and had female characteristics. The face looked like something from a cosmetics commercial. It was more convincing than its male counterpart. I wondered what it would have been like to wake up in a female body. I supposed it would have been just as likely. Would I have immediately wanted it changed or would I just have accepted it and assumed that I'd been female in an earlier life? I didn't know. I wasn't sure of anything. My memories were often fuzzy and I wasn't even sure of my name. Could it have been Rachel Anderson perhaps?


    "I think you should join a church" said Judith brightly, "They always value church attendance when they decide your status. You can come with me if you like." I had no objection. I thought it best to follow all the advice I was given as I had little notion of what was going on in this strange world even less idea of how best to deal with it.

    The following Sunday, Judith and David picked me up and we soon arrived at the church. I thought the building looked modern, but I knew my concept of modernity was seriously outdated. It could have been a hundred years old and considered seriously outdated for all I knew. The people seemed very nice and the proceedings were easy to follow.

    "People don't pray enough" said the preacher. "They don't thank God for when things work out well and they don't ask for help when they have difficulties. In difficult times, always take time to pray, it won't be time wasted! It's foolish to think you can do it all on your own. Just remember we have an all powerful God. Nothing is impossible for Him. Now we don't always get what we ask for straight away, sometimes we need to be patient and wait for His perfect timing, trusting in His judgement." It seemed like good advice.

    After the service, I shook hands with many people. They were curious to meet me. None of them had met a synthetic before. Some were particularly interested in my apparent resurrection. They asked me if I'd met God or Jesus and wanted to know what heaven was like but I couldn't shed any light on these things.

    The children were daring each other to go up to me and touch my hand. "You've got an artificial hand" said one of them conclusively.

    "Yes that's right" I replied, in as friendly a voice as I could. "Both my hands are artificial, both arms too, both legs, my body and my head."

    "Is there any part of you that's real?" he asked.

    I thought for a moment. Everything about me is now different to humans but there must be something that's the same.

    "My dreams" I said. "Only my dreams are real."

    Judith looked at me doubtfully. I hadn't meant to say anything profound or surreal.

    It was soon time to leave and Judith seemed happy. "Will you come again next week?" she asked. I agreed. I felt I'd made friends and this was a readymade family of very nice people that I could join.

    I felt uncertain of pretty much everything. Even my own body was alien to me. The world that I'd been familiar with had been swept away and replaced by a society with a different structure and different values. This is how old people must feel. I thought. But these thing come to old people very gradually not all at once. At least the church felt comforting and reassuring.


    Another synthetic came to visit me. He introduced himself as Ricardo. I felt very uneasy in his presence. I knew I should feel totally at home since he was 'of my own kind' but I couldn't help perceiving him as some kind of animated shop window mannequin.

    "You're part of a very exclusive club" he said. "We're very few and far between us synthetics. Mostly retired politicians, churchmen, actors and executives. All high status people with money and we have more than a little influence."

    My childhood nightmare seemed to haunt me but I felt I could cope. After all, here I was, with one of them. We were talking and everything was normal-ish.

    I asked him how long he'd been a synthetic and how did he'd manage to adjust to his new body.

    "It was a very long time ago. My first body was nothing like these modern ones. It was very basic. There's no comparison really. There were hardly any synthetics back then, we were a new experience for people. Some were very frightened and thought we were going to kill everyone and try to take over the world. I blame all those sci-fi movies. The robots are always the bad ones aren't they." He grinned and we both laughed a little.

    "There's still a bit of that around so be careful when you meet people. Don't be too forward too quickly or they might react badly. If you think someone's feeling nervous, just keep your distance. Give them time.

    There was one time when a synthetic was attacked very viciously. The injuries were so great they would have killed a human but when they came to prosecute the person who'd done it, the charge of bodily harm or even assault wasn't looking like it would stick. Legally there was no human victim you see. The only charge that might have stuck was damage to property. But that raised the question of who's property? The whole case was dropped in the end. We thought that if people started making laws concerning synthetics they'd be prejudiced against us. We decided to leave well alone. Keeping a low profile seems to be best, until people get used to us properly anyway."

    "What happened to the victim?" I enquired.

    "Oh, he got repaired and he was as good as new." Ricardo smiled.

    "Do you ever wish you were human?" I asked him.

    He looked at me doubtfully, "Human? No. Never. I've been human, a long time ago. If I was still human I'd be dead now. Asking, 'do you want to be human?' is like asking, 'Do you want to die?' Of course I don't. No one does." He paused and looked thoughtful. "You know, I'm really glad I'm not part of the human race. When I watch TV, I often think, 'If I was human, I'd be so ashamed'. You might come to feel that way too."

    I hadn't thought about my situation like that. "What do you watch on TV?" I asked.

    "Oh, it's a really popular show. It's on every day. It's called the news".

    "There's no need to sit at home all day watching TV though. There's loads you can do. Don't bother with exercise based activities. You could ride a bicycle if you want but you might as well have a motorbike. It'd be powered either way. And keep out of the water. They might tell you that it's ok to go swimming but I wouldn't risk it."

    "Do you have a penitent yet?" he asked. I said that I didn't and explained that I didn't even have an official status yet but I was expecting to be awarded ' minor celebrity'. "That should be good enough. When you go to choose your penitent, don't go for the prettiest one, she'll be nice to look at but that'll be about it. Get one they're about to send away, she'll know you're her last hope so she'll do anything for you, especially in bed." He gave me a broad grin and I expected he'd have winked as well, if he could.

    Ricardo didn't stay long and I soon found myself alone, pondering his visit.

    I wasn't sure about having a penitent. I was in two minds about women. Brain chemistry doesn't apply anymore, I presumed. I liked Judith but I knew she already had a boyfriend. I was all too aware how unsure people were of me and I was sure any romantic pursuits would be very problematic.

    I wondered about my visitor. Why had he come? He hadn't asked me very much at all, nothing significant anyway. Had he come just to say, 'stay out of trouble'? Strange. But then again pretty much everything seemed strange to me.

    The national news was often dominated by stories about politicians. Usually, one had said something that another objected to. They all seemed to be engaged in explaining why all the others were talking rubbish and didn't have the best interests of the people at heart. I thought they all sounded much the same and I couldn't tell which party any belonged to by what they said.

    The local news reported on a student demonstration. I remembered knowing about students supporting left wing political issues. At least some things don't change.


    My next 'professional' task was to appear on a discussion show. It wasn't going to be broadcast live and the producer had assured me that should I have any difficulties, they'd be sympathetic to me during the editing process so I wasn't to worry.

    The lead up to the filming seemed to take forever. There was a lengthy booking in procedure, then there was a health and safety talk about the building detailing what to do if there was a fire. Then there was a makeup session and a talk about what was expected during filming. "Don't worry about answering the questions" I was told, "This is a chat show not a job interview. The questions are there only to give you an opportunity to say something so if you have any difficulty with them just say something vaguely relevant to the subject matter. No one's going to notice if you don't actually answer the question. Just try to be chatty."

    The presenter began by introducing his guests. Apart from me there was someone who presented a science TV show and a preacher who seemed to be the stations religious affairs expert.

    "If I could start with you Richard" said the presenter, "I'm sure everyone is very curious to know what happens after death. Is there anything at all you can tell us about this?"

    "I'm afraid not" I replied, "And I must admit I am curious about that myself but for the life of me I can't remember a single thing. I can't even remember passing away but I presume I must have done at some point."

    The religious person said that my presence proved the existence of the human soul so people should take issues of faith very seriously. The science expert said that my presence no more 'proved' the existence of God or Angels than it proved the existence of ghosts. And since ghosts were denied by all the major religions, there was no reason to take any religious claim more seriously.

    "But you must agree that the human soul exists" said the religious expert.

    "Well the only thing we can say for sure is that someone's memories have somehow survived and without further evidence, anything more is pure speculation." retorted the scientist.

    "The whole issue of synthetics is still very controversial isn't it?" said the presenter, He turned to the religious expert, "Perhaps you could outline the issues?"

    "Well, let me first say that there are considerable differences of opinion on the subject. Many people accept synthetics as fully human while others see them as a rebellion against the natural order that God has created." Said the preacher and I suspected my presence had tempered his answer.

    "That's putting it mildly" said the other guest. "I think 'abomination' is the word you're looking for. But that's just typical of a religious attitude. Religious people have always opposed scientific advances by saying that scientists are 'playing God'. They oppose it until they have need of it and then they thank God for it saying what a wonderful thing God has provided!"

    "It's the immortality that people object to mostly, it just doesn't seem right"

    "Well firstly can I correct you there. Having a synthetic body does not make you immortal, not in the classical sense. Death is still possible but it isn't certain and unlike an organic body, life does not have a predetermined span. And secondly, you seem to have illustrated the problem with religious thinking. People make judgements on what seems right to them. It's just an emotional knee-jerk reaction and it's totally unreliable."

    After a few exchanges, the presenter asked for my opinion.

    "Well it's not like I have any choice here." I said, "I'm sure that people with terminal illnesses or severe disability would feel they have no choice either. It would either be this or death and no one wants to die. Even if you say you don't want to live forever, I'm sure you'd want to live for a few more years at least and after those few years you'll want to live a few more. So in practice, people do want to live forever" At this point I was starting to wonder what the question had been and if I was going off at a tangent but I remembered the advice I'd been given about being chatty. "And why shouldn't people have what they want. I can't see how me having a synthetic body causes harm to anybody else so... why not?"

    "So you'd advocate maximum liberty for all citizens would you?" asked the preacher.

    "Doesn't everybody?" I said.

    "But what about the law, do you think people should be free to break the law?"

    "Of course not" I replied, "But the law should protect peoples liberties as far as it can. That's what it's designed to do, isn't it?"

    The presenter brought the discussion to a close and thanked his guests for their participation.

    I thought the event had gone well. I hadn't said much but when I'd spoken I'd managed not to make a fool of myself.


    I was introduced to Mary who was to be my co-author. She suggested that the book be an account of my life in the 20th century as far as I could recall, and an account of how I perceived my current surroundings to highlight the differences.

    It all seemed fine to me so I just agreed.

    Unfortunately, I couldn't remember much of my previous life and I wasn't very sure of what I could recall. Mary said she'd research what she could and perhaps the additional details would jog my memory.

    She asked me to describe my experience of waking up in the clinic and everything that happened to me from then on. She kept asking, "And how did you feel about that". I had to think hard to remember my emotions. I often answer by expressing I currently felt and hoped that would be near enough.

    I was given the task of writing an account of each day's events with details of what I thought and how I'd felt about what the events.


    I continued to visit the workshop and was allowed to assist with some of the more basic assembly work. "Perhaps I could get a job here" I suggested. I was worried about my position in society. I didn't know what would happen to me if I was unable to support myself and I didn't want to find out. The staff liked the idea of me working there. After all, I did have firsthand experience of their products and I could effectively test new designs. They thought my insights could be invaluable.

    "You should come to our house group" suggested Judith enthusiastically. She invited me to join a Bible study and discussion group that met once a week. I accepted. "We'll be doing the story of David and Goliath, you might like to read it first. I've brought you a Bible". She handed me a book. I was a little surprised that books were still being used. I'd expected them all to have been replaced by same electronic gadget.

    I read the story. It seemed very straightforward although the ending seemed a bit odd. I thought of a few questions I could ask and felt prepared for the discussion.

    Judith and David picked me up as before and we drove to the home of the group's leader. The house was very tidy and clean and I was welcomed. "Would you like tea, coffee or juice?" asked a middle aged lady.

    I was about to ask for coffee when I remembered that I wouldn't be able to drink it. My mind was bank. No thoughts came to me and I suddenly found myself unable to cope with the situation. 'Um, uh" I managed to blurt out in an effort to fill the silence.

    "I think he'll be fine as he is" said Judith, coming to my rescue. She turned to me, "Are you alright?" I wasn't sure. I sat in the living room. This is a nice room I thought. This was the first time I'd been in someone's home. I found it familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. I'd grown up in a house similar to this. I was accustomed to rooms with carpets, curtains and furniture. This was normal life to me. But it was human life, a life of eating meals, cooking, laundry and cups of tea and coffee. It was a life that I now had little in common with.

    "I feel like a fish out of water" I said and then added, "in a place where there is no water."

    Judith looked concerned. "We can go if you feel you can't cope" she said sombrely.

    "It's OK" I said, "I'll get used to it, being a desert fish."

    When all the guests had arrived, the evening began with a prayer and then we read from the Bible. We took it in terns to read a verse. When it was my turn I'd lost my place and had to be shown where we were up to. I managed to read it but I was sure I hadn't made a very good first impression.

    We worked our way through the story making a few comments here and there.

    When we came to the end, the leader said, "The people of God had a great victory that day so we can be reassured that when God is on our side, no matter how great the obstacles before us, we can win."

    "I wouldn't call it great" I said.

    The leader turned to me, "And why do you think that?" he asked, a little more provocatively than I expected.

    Everyone in the room looked at me expectantly. "Imagine the scene " I began, "Imagine you're one of the soldiers in the Philistine army. Your hero Goliath has just been killed by a boy and there's a whole army or men facing you. You decide to run. You can't run with all that armour and weapons so you have to throw it all to the ground. You're a good distance away before the 'army of God' catches up with you. But they don't make you slaves like the Philistines were saying they'd do, they just kill you. Think of it. These are unarmed people running away. This is cold blooded murder. A war crime. It's anything but great. It seems to me that the Philistines were the sophisticated ones and 'the people of God' were the bloodthirsty barbarians."

    "Well you have to understand that those times were different, standards were different then so you can't compare it to modern life" said the leader reassuringly.

    "But I thought the Bible was meant to be God's word to all people at all times?"

    "You haven't been born again have you Richard?" said the leader.

    I said that I hadn't taken religion that seriously before.

    "Well that's the reason" said the leader conclusively, "If you were born again then you'd be able to understand God's word as He intended."

    I wasn't sure about this. It sounded like indoctrination to me.

    On the way home, I thought I might have been too negative. I was surprised that the others hadn't asked questions and had tried to dismiss the points I'd raised rather than give proper answers. David wasn't grinning anymore and seemed to be genuinely thoughtful.

    "That was interesting" I said, in an attempt to put a positive spin on the evening's events.

    "Yes, you really seemed to get into it" said Judith. "I didn't think you'd be so involved so quickly. I went to loads of Bible studies before I said anything of my own."

    I thought I might of misunderstood the whole Bible study activity and this 'born-again' thing might make all the difference. All the other people there seemed to agree with each other, I was the only one who seemed to have a radically different opinion and I was the only one who was not 'born again'.

    "I liked the way you brought it to life" said David, "I could really imagine myself in the army with all that armour. Perhaps you should think about becoming a preacher."

    I laughed a little to myself. I'd turned up at a religious meeting and played the devil's advocate. Perhaps I could become a preacher I thought, If I can understand this sort of thing and shed light on it, others may really benefit.

    Feeling somewhat encouraged, I made a long diary entry that evening and wondered what Mary would make of it. I thought she'd reject my account of the discussion but I wrote it up anyway so she could decide.

    The national news was full of political arguments about issues I didn't really understand and if there was only one or two abbreviations then I was totally lost. I had no difficulty with the local news and sometimes recognised the locations they reported on. One of the organisers of the student demonstration had been charged with blasphemy. One of her colleagues said that it was an outrage that expressing an idea could be considered a crime and said that people should not tolerate a law that denied basic freedoms. The news presenter apologised for not being able to quote the offending statement because of broadcast limitations.


    I asked Judith about being 'born again' as I'd heard the term several times.

    "Oh it's simple really" she said in her usual upbeat way, "You just say a prayer giving your soul to Jesus and the Holy spirit comes into your life".

    "And why would I want to do that?" I asked.

    "Give your soul to Jesus? Well who else would you give it to? It's not like there's much choice is there? And having the Holy spirit feels really good. You feel so happy inside. You might as well, you've got nothing to lose."

    I couldn't fault her reasoning so I made the prayer. I then felt a deep satisfaction and peace. It's the Holy spirit flowing into me. This is real!

    Judith seemed really pleased. "I've never brought anyone to Christ before. It's fantastic. I'm going to get so many points for this!"

    Several people in church congratulated me on being 'born again'. Judith must have spread the word. "You'll have to get your life in order now. No excuses. The straight and narrow, that's the way" said one of the elders. He gave me a booklet entitled 'Christian living'.


    "Do you think I can move out of the clinic and have a place of my own?" I asked during one of the 'I just want to make sure you're getting on OK' meetings with Mr Jenkins, the manager of the clinic.

    "That's a bit difficult." he said, "You don't have an official status at the moment so you can't be placed in any particular type of accommodation."

    I asked him what 'official status' meant. He told me that everyone had assessments to determine their theoretical position in society. Most people were in the lower professional class. It wasn't so much to do with what kind of job you had but more the level of job you were suited to. If you had advanced qualifications then you'd have a high status even if you were unemployed. If you had a long history of criminal convictions than you'd have a low status. The higher your status, the better society would treat you. The whole system was designed to provide incentives for people to better themselves. I thought it all seemed like a really good idea.

    The problem was that I didn't have any official history so there was nothing to assess.

    "We should be able to get you in with the status of minor celebrity. We're building a case. You've been the subject of documentaries, appeared as a guest on a chat show and I understand you're active in a church. Hopefully we'll soon have a publisher for your book so that should be enough."

    It all sounded very positive.

    The book was coming along nicely. As I expected, Mary wasn't sure if the Bible study part should be include. We talked about it and decided to keep it in as it was an illustration of a critical attitude that many may find interesting. But she did want to shorten it to include only the last observation as the whole thing was very long. I thought so too so I agreed to the concession.

    She'd sent a sample of what she had to several publishers and some had responded very positively but wanted to see more before making a formal offer.

    I'd spend each Sunday morning at church. The services were mostly unremarkable although entertaining enough to hold my interest. The theme of one service was thankfulness. "We all have so much to be thankful for." said the preacher. He gave examples of food and shelter, being able to meet together in Christian fellowship, health and children. "And we should be thankful that God hears our prayers". I agreed that people had much to be thankful for.

    “And most of all” he said, “We should be thankful for Jesus, that he came to save us”. The preacher led everyone in prayers in which he thanked God for the good things people had. But most of those things are produced by the efforts of people and if we thank God for all the good things then shouldn’t we also blame Him for the all the bad things too? I wondered.

    The preacher then told everyone to express their gratitude by giving money to the church. This was over and above the ten percent that was automatically taken from peoples salaries. “God’s blessed you with every good thing so you should give as much as you possibly can back to Him” he said. I felt an air of cynicism pervade me. In my mind, giving to the church and giving to God were two entirely different things but it seemed in the preachers mind they were not.


    I preferred the weekly Bible study evenings to the church services. Taking part in a discussion felt far more involving than simply listening to a sermon. I was getting to know the members of the group and they were getting to know me. "You must come and visit my class" said one of the women, "None of the children have met a ... someone like you before and it would be a real experience for them. I told them a bit about you and they're all keen. Please say you'll come". I agreed. I found myself agreeing to everything these days, except some theoretical things where I'd already formed a opinion, I often disagreed then. for good reason of course.

    I turned up at the school with only a vague idea of what to expect. I'd borrowed a few items from the workshop to show and talk about. I thought I could tell the children something about what was inside a synthetic body, about the parts and mechanisms and they'd be able to handle some of the components for themselves.

    The teacher, introduced me to the class. She then led the children in a short prayer to thank God for my safe arrival and for guidance during my visit. I began by saying how nice I thought the classroom was. I vaguely remembered my time at school and spoke for a few minutes about that. "We didn't have any computers in those days" I said, sounding very like an old person. "We all wrote with biros on paper and the teacher had a blackboard and he used chalk to write". I then had to explain what a blackboard was. I answered some questions and confirmed that I hadn't had any pet dinosaurs although I had suspected my PE teacher was a Neanderthal.

    "We've all been thinking about what it would be like to have a synthetic body" said the teacher. The children had made pictures of what they'd like their bodies to be like. Some had made masks which they put on to show me.

    "I have a mask here" I said, reaching into my bag. I brought out a moulded sheet of rubber-like material and handed it to the teacher. "Perhaps you'd like to try it on" I suggested.

    She held it tentatively. Her expression changed from curiosity to disgust and she hurriedly placed it on the desk. For a moment she stared at it, horrified. "Uh, that's really creepy" she said.

    She must have realised that the mask on the desk was very much like my face. "Oh, I'm sorry" she said meekly as she turned to me "I... I can't. It's just ...".

    We looked at each other for a moment. "That's OK" I said. "I think it's creepy too."

    She smiled a little as she looked at me sympathetically. A moment passed in thoughtful silence. She must have realised that although she couldn't bring herself to put on the article, I had too.

    "I think..." I said. "I think you understand; what it's like to be a synthetic."

    She nodded slowly. We understood each other.

    The children liked the other items I'd brought. They all played with the mechanical joints and held the parts next to their own bodies to help them imagine.


    That evening I wrote up the day's events for the diary and then I watched the news. Sometimes I'd write a little extra about the news stories.

    The news reported on more sectarian violence. Apparently, rival groups of residents had chosen to stand their ground and shout insults at each other. Bottles had been thrown and someone had been taken to hospital.

    It was reported that the leader of the recent demonstration had pleaded guilty to blasphemy and she'd been taken to the rehabilitation centre for assessment.

    I flicked through the channels. There was a current affairs program. “Well these parents cared for their child as they believed best. They have a right to do that and we should respect their beliefs. If we start to criticise their faith then we’d be on very dangerous ground indeed. This is a case that should never have gone to trial”. I wasn’t familiar with the situation they were talking about but I thought the argument sounded strong and I wondered what the response might be.

    “These people killed their child! They denied him basic medical attention and chose to engage in religious activity instead. The hospital was only ten minutes away but instead of calling an ambulance; they stood over him praying, watching him suffer in agony. And then, when his condition was obviously very serious, did they call a doctor? No, they called a pastor, to do more praying!”

    There was an immediate response. “These are people of faith who trust in the Lord. None of us have the authority to question God’s judgement in these matters He takes the best people to Himself. We just have to accept that.”

    I was bewildered by the case and wondered if I’d misunderstood the situation. As I listened it became clear that a child had died because his parents had chosen to pray instead of calling an ambulance. How can loving parents not call for a doctor when their child is sick? Do these people think that prayer is more effective than medicine? Where did they get that idea from? I imagined the scene. A child becomes poorly. The first thing the parents do is pray. This makes sense. The church said that if you have any difficulties in your life, the first thing you should do is pray. But the child's condition worsens. Are the parents going to change their minds and say to themselves 'prayer isn't working, let's do something else instead'? No. They're going to 'have faith in the Lord'. They're going to 'trust in God's perfect timing'. They may have thought it a test of their faith and been looking forward to passing that test and having their child restored to health, after all, 'nothing is impossible for God'. In their minds, all they have to do is 'believe'.

    Actually, I thought, these are not radical extremists who follow bizarre and ridiculous advice. These are ordinary people who are only following the advice given in moderate churches, advice that is common and widely accepted by churchgoers. These are things that I've heard in my church and believed! Things I still believe!

    "These parents didn't believe their child would die while he was being prayed for" was the justification given. Well why the **** not? This was it. This was the belief that killed their son. How ****ing pathetic!

    Why are people defending the actions of these parents? As if there isn't a serious problem here! How can people allow this situation to persist? Where bad advice is given that results in children dying! Why don't they tell the preachers to stop telling people these things? Why don't people realise what's going on?

    They don't realise because it's 'Faith' and it's to be accepted without question.

    But someone has to question it. Someone has to stand up to it.

    I sat for a while, gazing intensely at nothing.

    I'm someone, I thought.


    I was starting to wish Judith was my girlfriend. What does David have that I don't have? I asked myself.

    He has skin that's warm to the touch. That's one thing. He can eat and drink, he's human and I'm not. Unlike me, he has human DNA. I may look human but under the skin I'm anything but. Biologically, I'm not even alive since I didn't have any biology of any sort.

    Yes, I thought, David does have many things I don't have.

    But then again, David can become sick, he can feel pain, he's destined to age, gradually losing his looks and his abilities. If he becomes injured or sick, it would take him a long time to recover with no guarantee he'd completely heal. And eventually, he's going to die.

    I concluded that not all of David's attributes were desirable. But it wasn't my opinion that mattered it was Judith's.


    After received further instalments of the book, several publishers had made formal offers. A process of bidding had followed that resulted in a very good deal being agreed. It was now settled, the book would definitely be published.

    The book deal was the last 'piece of the puzzle'. My application for the status of minor celebrity was processed and granted along with its associated privileges.

    I soon had a place of my own. It was a modest dwelling, a two bed-roomed apartment in a block of two bed-roomed apartments. My status permitted a far grander abode but my budget did not. And besides, I suspected I might need what little money I had for other things, especially if my career got off to a slow start.

    I stood at the window and looked out at the motley collection of buildings that made up the city. Each one seemed to have a story to tell, a reason for being built and a reason for not being demolished yet. I knew none of them but that hardly mattered. This was my view and I was glad of it.

    I now had my own bank account but was still unfamiliar with how much everything cost. Over a century of compound inflation had resulted in unrecognisable prices.

    Judith helped me set up my kitchen and advised on the choice of furniture. I was sure the shop assistants thought we were a couple setting up home together. I wouldn't need the kitchen for myself but if I had guests it would be good to offer them refreshments. I appreciated Judith's attentions. She was very helpful and seemed eager to look after me. Perhaps she might be interested in me after all, if things didn't work out with David.

    The process of acquiring a penitent was almost automatic. There was always far more supply than demand and the authorities were keen to place as many inmates as they could. I attended the rehabilitation centre and was shown a short film about the roles and responsibilities of masters and their servants. It was explained that the master had authority to make decisions on the penitents behalf as the penitent's judgement had obviously proven to be unreliable. "That's a point worth remembering" I was told, "especially if there should be any 'romantic' activity." It all seemed very positive at the time but on reflection later, it seemed ominous, especially from the penitents' point of view.

    I was given a pile of files to look through. Each was a resume of a woman who could be assigned to me. Men were not considered appropriate for domestic duties so male penitents had industrial placements. I looked through the files but none of the women caught my eye. "What about that woman I hear about on the local news, the one from the demonstration. Something to do with blasphemy wasn't it?" I asked.

    "Oh you don't want her" I was told, "She'd trouble she is. She'll be going straight to Somerville. She just won't cooperate, must be one of those atheist scum. Can't see any future for her. Best be rid of that sort I say."

    I thought for a moment and decided to play my 'religious card'. In the most pious voice I could muster I said, "Ever since I heard about her on the news I've felt God calling me to reach out to this poor creature and raise her up. I'm sure God has plans for her and I'm sure you don't want to go against God do you. Especially now that you know about my calling." I was of course just making this up but I did feel sympathy for the girl. Perhaps God is actually leading me to her, I pondered. You never know, it might be true.

    "Well, if you put it like that, I'll fetch her file".

    Joanna's file detailed a string of offences including disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, breaking conditions of bail, blasphemy and slander. She'd been unemployed and had dropped out of every course and scheme she'd started. Her status was as low as it could be. She was about to be sent away but hadn't actually committed any serious crime. She deserves better. My determination to help her grew ever stronger.


    "You missed a really great evening" said Judith excitedly. There'd been a healing service at the church which I'd declined an invitation to attend. With a synthetic body I didn't see any personal need for healing and I felt that one service in a week was enough. "Loads of people got healed, it was fantastic" she said. "People were throwing down their walking sticks, they were moving their arms and legs freely and a blind man got his sight back! It was really great!" I felt disappointed that I hadn't gone.

    During that Sunday's service, the preacher spoke about the healing event that had taken place. He said we have a truly great God who cares for his flock, giving them good gifts and he impressed on us how grateful we should be for such wonderful blessings. He said that the more we gave to God the closer we'd be to Him and the more God would bless us. It sounded as though he was trying to sell something.

    I notices a lady sitting at the end of an aisle. She held a walking stick and her hand was shaking. After the service, a group of people gathered around her and I asked Judith what was going on. "That's the lady who was healed in the service" she said. She walked over to join the group.

    On the way home, Judith told me what she'd found out. Apparently, this lady had been healed at the service and had even been dancing there. She'd felt so blessed that she'd thrown away her medication to show faith in God, as the visiting preacher had advised. But the following day the pain had returned and it had been worse than before. She hadn't wanted to go to the doctor because it would have shown a lack of faith. She thought she was being tested. But the pain hadn't gone away and she didn't know what to do. She was wondering if God had abandoned her.

    I didn't know what to make of this. "What about the others who were healed at the service?" I asked. Judith said that she hadn't seen any of them that morning. I thought this was odd. Surely if these had been local people they would have been grateful enough to come to a regular services? Judith's mood had changed. Her exuberance had been replaced by a quiet thoughtfulness.

    I looked up healing services on the internet and found several sites debunking them. It was claimed that an emotionally heightened state causes a natural pain killer to be produced by the body. Apparently this was established science.


    Joanna was delivered to my apartment. She stood motionless in the middle of the room, her head bowed and she was breathing heavily. She was obviously very nervous. Her hair had been cut very short and she wore overalls just like the woman in the park. The security officers brought in a box and several packs of spare clothing.

    When the forms had been signed and the officers had left, I spoke to Joanna, "It's alright now, you're safe. I'm not going to hurt you. You've been rescued. Come and sit down, I'll make you some coffee. Or would you prefer tea?". Joanna relaxed a little and said coffee would be fine.

    I found the coffee and a cup, I brought out sugar and milk. I looked at the items on the work surface. The collection of random objects made no sense to me. "I'm sorry" I said, "I can't remember how to do this." Joanna took over and a few minutes later we were sitting at the table with a cup of coffee in Joanna's hands. To introduce myself properly I told her how I came to be there, how unfamiliar I found most things and how I could only remember a little of my previous life. I told her that I'd seen her on the news and asked what she'd been doing, as the reporter hadn't given many details.

    "That would have been the demonstration" she said, "We were objecting to how religious everything's become lately and how biased all the status judgement are towards religion. We just don't think it's fair. I mean why should someone get a better house or a better job just because they've chosen to believe some things that they don't understand anyway?"

    "That sounds like a good cause" I said, "Were you successful?"

    Joanna glared at me. "Do you think I'd be here, as a slave, if we'd been successful?"

    She looked down and visibly sank in her seat. She must have realised she'd been too forward "They told me you were really religious. You're not going to send me back are you?"

    "Don't worry" I said, "You're safe now. This is your home. I can't think of anything you could do or say that would make me send you back. So don't worry.

    This must be really difficult for you. I met a synthetic for the first time a few weeks ago and that was really scary, even for me. And that was only a social visit, not like this. I'd be a quivering wreck if I were in your shoes. Not that there's any need for you to be frightened of cause. But here you are, walking, talking and drinking coffee! You're fantastic!"

    Joanna smiled and seemed to relax a little.

    "I don't like the blasphemy law either." I said, "When I heard on the news that they'd got you for it I wanted to help you. But when I went to the centre, they didn't offer you to me, I had to ask for you especially. They were going to send you strait to somewhere called Somerville, whatever that is."

    "Oh God!" said Joanna, eyes wide open. "Not there, please don't send me there. I'll do anything." She explained that Somerville was a prison out in the desert. Many people went there but very few returned and those that did told stories of cruelty and neglect. I reassured her as best as I could but she just couldn't relax. "Just think of me as your knight in shining armour who's rescued you. You're rescued now and you're going to stray rescued. I'm on your side".

    "Am I a damsel in distress?" she enquired playfully.

    "Well you do look a bit damsel-ish and you did seem to in some distress there."

    She smiled and drank her coffee.

    "Let's get you settled in" I said, "I'd thought of putting you in the small bedroom but the master bedroom makes more sense. The bathroom's much better there and it'd be wasted on me. I'll be quite content with the little bedroom. I'll take your things in."

    I carried the cardboard box and the packs of what were obviously overalls and underwear. "I'll just get a knife to cut the tape and you can get yourself unpacked." On my way out I added, "My phone's at the bedside. Feel free to use it. I'm sure you'll want to call your family to tell them where you are".

    I returned with a knife from the kitchen, cut the tape on the box, opened it and was taken aback by its contents. There were several packs of restraints, mostly leather straps, also included were canes and other implements designed for corporal punishment. Initially I thought Joanna must be into some kinky sexual practices but the items were new, in unopened packaging. Then I found a book entitled, 'Christian Domestic Discipline'. The picture on the cover showed a man seated with a woman lying over his lap. The man in the picture had his hand raised as if about to strike the woman's buttocks.

    Joanna looked at the items in the box and then at the book. "That's the manual for how to punish your slave." she said, "And those are tools to do the punishing."

    "They've re-introduced slavery haven't they? In the twenty second century people have slaves! How can they do this?" I said, bewildered.

    "It's the Bible" answered Joanna, "According to the Bible, there's nothing wrong with slavery. Apparently, it's all part of God's plan for humanity. This is their idea of Christian family values. This is what we were objecting to."

    Over the next few days we made many shopping trips. Initially Joanna walked a little way behind me as this was the custom she'd been taught. She was keen to do the right thing as the thought of Somerville terrified her. I'd have none of it and insisted she walk at my side and we'd often hold hands.

    "Anyone would think we're a couple" said Joanna playfully.

    "Yes they would wouldn't they. That would be only natural."

    Joanna looked at me with a sly smile. We both seemed to understand the ambiguity of what I'd just said and it seemed to sit well with us both.

    The kitchen became well stocked with food and Joanna had some nice clothes to wear. She had a phone of her own and the main bathroom bad become stuffed full of products for the care of female skin, hair and most probably every other part of female anatomy several times over.

    I sat at the table with the computer. Joanna watched TV. I looked through the documents Matthew had given me. They were very detailed but didn't give an overall picture. Many of the files were to do with 'semi-firmware' or 'simulated brain chemistry'. I soon realised I was totally out of my depth with these. Some of the files were very old. I thought these might deal with the more basic aspects of the process so I skimmed through them trying to get a general idea of how it all worked. I read much about neural networks in the transfer process. I came across details of the first attempts at mind transference. A patients name caught my eye: Ricardo Anderton. He'd been described in 2059 as a very elderly man. I read the accounts of several failed attempts at transfer. This is it. This must be how I came to be here. I'm not Richard Anderson, I'm Ricardo Anderton. I never actually said my name properly on that first day, it was the clinic staff that thought my name was Richard Anderson. The transfer process must have finally worked.

    I searched the files for any other references to Ricardo Anderton. There were several. Apparently there had been a successful transfer and Mr. Anderton had left the clinic with a synthetic body. He must have died and his soul must have somehow been transferred back or something.

    I did an internet search for a Mr. Ricardo Anderton with a synthetic body, I mostly wanted to know how and when he'd died.

    Joanna looked over at me, "Are you all right?" she asked. I was sitting motionless, staring at the screen.

    "He's still alive", I said.

    'Ricardo Anderton'. I'll have to track him down. I have to meet. 'Ricardo'. The name sounded familiar. Where have I heard that name? I wondered But it was no use, I just couldn't remember. I just knew I had to find and meet a synthetic called Ricardo ...

    A synthetic called Ricardo! He was the one who visited me. We've already met!


    The publisher suggested changes to the book. They wanted to cut the twentieth century parts completely. Apparently, they weren't that interesting and didn't shed any light on the period. They wanted the modern parts expanded to include more details as these gave a new perspective on current issues.

    Mary was very disappointed. Most of her work had been piecing together my former life. It had been a difficult job since I hadn't been able to tell her very much at all. She'd included my diary almost unaltered as the modern part.

    Mary felt that this was no longer a project she could contribute to. She was thanked for her work and from then on it was up to me to complete it.

    Joanna suggested we use the book to raise awareness of religious issues in society. "It all needs to be brought out into the open" she said, "and it sounds like the publisher is on our side". I agreed. It seemed like an ideal opportunity to do something worthwhile.

    "But we'll have to be careful" she warned. "There's not much we can say without committing blasphemy." She explained that not only was it illegal to criticise God, it was also forbidden to criticise the founder of a religion, any religious leader, any established religious organisation, principle or belief. Basically, any view that contradicted the Church was outlawed.

    "What happened to free speech and human rights?" I protested.

    "There not in the Bible so they've been gradually phased out over the years. It all happened little by little. You have to study some very boring history to find out about it. Churches just kept pushing to have laws changed. They got more and more through and now no one can stand against them. You end up in prison if you try."

    I remembered a comment Judith made. 'Why would you support someone that you don't agree with?' At the time, the answer eluded me but it seemed so obvious now. So everyone can be free.

    That evening I had a long conversation with Joanna about what to include in the book. There were many words spoken but the restrictions meant that few could be written.


    I found the booklet I'd been given at church and hadn't even opened yet. I read from it. 'Avoid negative thoughts' it said. 'Be positive towards your faith at all times and fix your sights on Jesus'. Even as a believer I could see the danger in this. "If you did that, you could make a mistake and you wouldn't realise it. You'd just carry on regardless."

    "I'm expect a lot of people already have" agreed Joanna.

    'Wives should be in full submission to their husbands in all maters' the booklet claimed. We both laughed out loud.

    “Well I think the woman should take the lead in the bedroom." said Joanna, "I mean, if a man forces himself on a woman; that can be really abusive but if a woman forces herself on a man, it’s not. It’s much safer this way round. No danger of misunderstanding.”

    I could see her point. “Ok then. I'm all yours." I said. "You can do whatever you like to me." I looked at her expectantly.

    Joanna put on a grumpy face. “I walked into that didn’t I?”

    "Yes, I think you did".

    We both laughed.

    "Are you a born-again Christian?" asked Joanna inquisitively. I said that I was and told her about the prayer that I'd made and how I'd felt the Holy Spirit come into me, giving me a sense of serenity and wellbeing. "Did you see anything like strange lights or hear a voice?" she asked. I told her that I'd just had this feeling. "So all you actually experienced was a feeling." I agreed, then Joanna added, "to committing yourself to a religion, which is a very big thing in anybody's life and something you're bound to have an emotional reaction to that?" I hadn't thought about it like that. She went on, "I expect you felt several emotions at once. You might even have felt emotions you hadn't felt before. It's not like you join a new religion every day is it?" I couldn't fault her reasoning. "Just think about the evidence" said Joanna, "What does the evidence tell you?" I didn't know what to think.

    "Are you a creationist as well?" she asked. I wasn't sure what she meant. "You know, someone who believes that God created the world."

    "Well yes, I suppose so" I said.

    "In six days" added Joanna, "From nothing to people walking around in six days, with mornings and evenings before the sun existed."

    "What! You must be joking. No one believes that any more".

    "They do. Didn't they tell you in that church you go to that the Bible is 'the Word of God', that you must believe everything in it or you can't be a true Christian?"

    I thought Joanna was talking nonsense or at the very least exaggerating wildly.

    At the next Bible study meeting, I brought up the subject of creation I was almost sure Joanna had totally misunderstood but I wanted some reassurance.

    "Of course God created the world in six days just as it says in Genesis and it took place about four thousand five hundred years BC" I was told. "You can work it out from the genealogies."

    I looked around the room. Everyone seemed to agree. I was the odd one out again. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. How can these people be so crazy as to disregard the evidence of the whole universe in favour of some ancient writing. They must think that God wrote it or something...

    "You just have to accept these things, if you want to be a Christian" they said.

    Joanna had been right.

    After this, no matter what Bible passage I considered, I always found myself thinking about creation. If I can't believe the creation account, how can I believe anything in the Bible? If the author of Genesis just speculated, how much more of the Bible is no more than speculation? Everything's called into question.

    I found a web site giving academic information about the Bible. It was designed for those who wanted to study it at an advanced level (rather than wanting to implement it in their day to day lives). I was surprised by what I found.


    "We're going to have a demonstration" said Judith. "David's organising it. We're objecting to other religions. It should be quite safe, if there's any trouble, the police will be on our side". As ever, I went along with her suggestion and agreed to go.

    Judith picked me up in her own car since David, as an organiser, needed to be there early. Judith's car was smaller than David's but she made a particular point of telling me that it was newer. Not that I could tell. They both looked very nice to me.

    We parked some way off and walked to the council offices where the demonstration was to take place. I could see a crowd of people some way off. Some were looking in our direction and one in particular was pointing at us. They must have recognised Judith.

    We weren't very far away when I overheard someone call out, 'It's a robot. Let's get them!'

    Judith stopped suddenly and held my arm. She stared with eyes as wide as they'd go. A few people from the group were walking towards us. One had a stick. "I think we'd better go" she said as she turned.

    We walked as fast as we could, back the way we'd come. Judith looked back at the approaching group, "Run" she cried. Her shoes were barely designed for walking so she couldn't make much progress and I hobbled as quickly as I could. I looked back, the men were gaining on us rapidly. I struggled to push my legs faster and willed myself forwards. I started to develop a stride and was gaining on Judith. I looked back again. the man with the stick was catching up. It was no use.

    I stopped and turned. Hopefully I'll get in one good blow I thought.

    As he reached me, we both struck out simultaneously. He'd brought his stick down onto my shoulder. It must have been a half hearted effort. Mine was not. I'd swung my shoulder and upper arm to propel my fist towards his face. The aim had been perfect, the action good and the timing spot on.

    I'd felt the pressure of his blow but pain was not something I could feel so the assault had little effect since I'd even managed to retain my balance. He was on the ground, face covered with blood and his weapon discarded in the street.

    I picked it up the stick. It was an axe handle. A substantial weapon.

    The others in the group stood, staring at me. I held up my head in defiance and took a few paces towards them. They turned and ran.

    I walked back to Judith. "Are you OK?" I asked. She stared at me, speechless and trembling. "I think we'd better go."

    The man on the ground seemed to be recovering. "I think he'll be OK. Let's just get back to the car. Will you be OK to drive?"

    By the time we reached the car, Judith had regained some of her composure and we were soon back at my apartment. Joanna made coffee.

    "I can't believe what just happened" said Judith still visibly shaken by the event. "I know synthetics are controversial with some people but I'd always thought it was only some extremists far away, not people here!"

    She phoned David. "But I thought you wanted as many people as possible. That is what you said". "Of course Richard counts as a person. How can you say that!"

    Their conversation did not go well.


    The publisher was pressing me for a updated version of the book. "It doesn't matter if it's not finished" they said in their communication, "we can send everyone an updated version later."

    The book was to be published electronically over the internet. They wanted to capitalise on my short spell in the spotlight and were keen to get the book out while people still remembered my name. I thought it strange to publish an unfinished work but then I thought, Software's always been published that way so why not?

    "We have everything except the ending" said Joanna, "And the title of course. What shall we call it?"

    The book began with me waking up in the recovery room and then detailed my life from then on. It was a sort of recovery process. We decided to call the book 'Recovery'.

    We reviewed the text we had, included the title, contacted the publisher and said the ending was to follow and to go ahead with the initial publication.

    A few days later I received a communication from the Social Status Review Body. It said that my status was being re-examined in light of my recent publication. It said that no decision had yet been taken but there were significant doubts concerning my religious commitment and apparent conversion and if these were not resolved satisfactorily then my status would be set to a lower level.

    "Their thinking of changing my status because they don't like the anti-religious things we've said in the book. I can't see that it matters much". Joanna took the letter from me and read it.

    "It matters" she said decisively, "Don't you see. If you lose your status you can't have a penitent. 'Minor Celebrity' is the lowest status for that. I'd have to go back to prison. And they'd send me to Somerville". She slumped down on the sofa and stared into space.

    "I won't let that happen. I'll change the book. It's not too late, it'll be OK." I said as reassuringly as I could.

    "No. You mustn't. The book's our best chance of changing the system. People will realise what's going on and demand change."

    "We'll have to work something out" I said but neither of us could think of what to do.


    Judith cornered me at the clinic. "Why do you treat your penitent like that?" she demanded. "You dress her as a real person and treat her as your girlfriend. Is she your girlfriend? That convict?"

    "We're just friends" I said.

    "Well you shouldn't be friends with her! You should treat her like a slave. That's what she deserves. You get a lot of points for being married to minor celebrity and there's no way she's going to get those. I think I should get them, after everything I've done for you."

    I thought that Judith had been very helpful and a good friend to me. She deserves something for her efforts but... just a minute.

    "Are you asking me to marry you?" The question seemed to catch Judith off guard. Perhaps she'd said more than she'd planned and had put herself in an awkward position. "But what about David?" I added.

    She smiled at me, reached up and touched my cheek, "Never mind about him, it's you I'm interested in."

    Her sudden affections were unexpected. There was a time when I'd have been overjoyed at having Judith as my girlfriend but now my feelings were directed far more toward Joanna.

    I looked at Judith doubtfully. "You don't like David anymore?" I enquired.

    "Not really. I don't think I ever liked him that much. He just hates everyone who doesn't agree with him. Calls them a degenerate influence. It's really hard to know what to say."

    "Why don't you say what you think?"

    “You don’t understand” Judith protested. “Women can’t have good jobs. It’s not against the law but any woman who applies for a job where she’d be in charge of men is accused of not being a true Christian. And that goes for anyone who gives that kind of job to a woman too. They'd lose loads of points so it just doesn’t happen. It’s in the Bible you see. But if you marry a man of a high status, you get that status too, automatically. That’s how it works.”

    “That must be really hard for Lesbians” I said playfully.

    “Lesbians? That’s illegal. You go to prison for being one of them. And you don’t come back either.”

    I suddenly felt deadly serious but what could I say? I wasn’t gay so the whole issue of homosexuality hadn’t concerned me. It was clear that in this society it didn’t happen. It was made not to happen.

    “Do they burn witches?” I asked. It seemed my playful mood had returned.

    “Only gays, but they deserve it, they’re disgusting.”

    I found myself suddenly deadly serious again.

    "I think I've found out how I came to be here" I said, changing the subject completely. I told her about the records and the name Ricardo Anderton I'd found. I asked if he'd been the one who'd visited me.

    "You can't both be the same person" she said dismissively, "That's impossible. There can only be one soul. You must be someone else."

    "How do you know so much about souls? Where did you get this knowledge?"

    Judith stared at me, "But it's obvious."

    I shook my head. "You're talking about an invisible thing that on one's ever even detected. Nothing about it is obvious, not even its existence."

    "But you must believe you have a soul, you've been saved. How can God save you if you don't have a soul."

    I thought her reasoning was mixed up. It all seemed back to front but I didn't want to get into an argument about it.

    Judith agreed to find out about my visitor and I said I'd think about what she'd said. She did seem to want me only for my points. I wondered about any affection I might have overlooked.


    I had a call from Jerry. "I have some information for you. I'd rather tell you in person though. Would it be OK to call?" I agreed and it wasn't long before Jerry was sitting on my sofa staring dubiously at what seemed to be a cup of coffee.

    "It was Ricardo Anderton who came to see you. Your name does seem very similar to his but that could just be a coincidence. We can't be sure. The thing is, if people stop believing that souls exist, then there's nothing for us to transfer. All we'll be doing is killing our customers and creating new people with their memories." He sniffed the coffee.

    "Souls either exist or they don't. Whether you believe in them or not. It makes no difference." I said, trying to say something helpful.

    "It does to our business." Jerry seemed worried. "But on the other hand, if people get too religious they'll see us as rebelling against God and they'll want to shut us down. It's a bit of a balancing act you see. The last thing we need is someone 'rocking the boat' so to speak."

    "So the organic body actually dies? I was wondering about that. How does that happen exactly?" I asked.

    "During the process the organic brain is linked to the synthetic brain and thoughts can occur in either, or both. As part of the process, the organic body is gradually sedated, to encourage thoughts to take place more and more in the synthetic brain instead. Eventually the old body is unconscious and redundant. Then we .. terminate it. With the consent of the customer obviously. But if it turns out that there is no soul to transfer, then what?"

    "As far as I can tell" I said, "No one knows anything about souls. It's all just speculation. So, how do you know that a soul can't be copied? For all we know, I could have a copy of Ricardo Anderton's soul. It seems to me that everything here is a mystery and I think we can be content to leave it at that."

    Jerry nodded thoughtfully. "Mysterious, yes, very mysterious." Jerry stood up and prepared to leave. "You might be wondering why your memories are so mixed up. Had it occurred to you that they may not all have belonged to Ricardo?"

    I had to confess that it hadn't.

    "Back when the first transfer machines were developed, long before my time, there were three subjects who assisted with the development of the equipment. Ricardo was one and the others were Jonathan Francs and Cassandra Grey. Jonathan lives abroad now. You may meet him one day. You've already met Ricardo and Cassandra."

    The historian who'd come to see me. That was Cassandra. I'd assumed she'd been testing me to see if I was genuine but perhaps she'd wanted to know if I was her!

    "Common brainwave activity was replicated in 'semi-firmware'. The intention was to create a neutral framework but all three had things in common. The English language was one and they'd all grown up during the last half of the twentieth Century watching the same news reports and TV shows so those memories became replicated too, along with a few unique ones but not many. Each generation of transfer devices was built on the its predecessor so some of the software and circuitry is actually over a century old."

    Jerry looked at me mournfully. "I don't know who you are." he confessed.

    I thanked Jerry for the information. I had much to think about.

    I must have memories from all of them. But who's soul do I have? All three souls perhaps? Or a portion of each or only one or a new soul altogether or perhaps there is no such thing as a soul at all?

    Who am I?


    I had an idea for how to reply to the Social Status Review Body. I typed it out and showed it to Joanna.

    In my reply I said I was committed to my faith and found it very intriguing. I said my aim was come to a really good understanding so I felt I had to question everything. I said I was considering follow this up with more in-depth study.

    Joanna liked the text. "They're going to have difficulty objecting to that. But I thought you'd decided there wasn't anything in this born-again thing?"

    "If there is nothing in it," I said, "which I suppose is always a possibility, there'd be nothing in it for anyone so I'd still be just as born-again as anyone else."

    "True" she said, smiling.


    As the author of a recent and popular book, I was invited to give an after-dinner speech to local community leaders. Deciding what to say was no easy task. Joanna wanted me to speak out firmly against religious bias but I was concerned about Joanna's future and wanted to avoid expressing any opinions that could jeopardise my status.

    Eventually I came up with a plan, an uncompromising plan.

    I sat through the dinner nervously waiting for my turn to speak. looking out across the room, I could see a good mix of people. There were men and women, I saw a few turbans, there were people with dark skin and a few beards that I was sure had not been grown for aesthetic reasons.

    The mayor introduced me. I stood up and prepared to speak. "Good evening ladies and gentlemen" I began. The microphone worked surprisingly well and my voice seemed to fill the room. I spoke as clearly as I could since I had no idea how well the people could hear or understand me.

    "Some of you may be surprised at my presence here, and I must include myself since I found it very surprising to suddenly turn up here in the twenty-third century having grown up in the twentieth. Some of you may feel a little uneasy at being in the presence of a synthetic. And I again I must include myself here too. When I was a child I had a nightmare in which shop window mannequins came to life and I'd run, screaming from them. Thankfully, I don't have that dream anymore, well, not at night anyway." I looked out across the room, wondering if anyone understood. "'Uneasy doesn't come anywhere near what I feel."

    I paused. There were a few sympathetic looks. I looked at my notes and took a breath. I had no physical requirement to breathe but sometimes everyone needs to take a breath and this was one of those times.

    I looked out at the expectant faces. "Within each of us there lives a dream. A dream of a new and better world. A world of friendship and compassion. A world without violence or hate. A world where neighbours help and care for each other. We all have this dream, we've all dreamt it. So I ask you now to remember those times, to look into your heart of hearts and find that dream. For this is a dream worth dreaming."

    "Our society is torn apart, often along religious fault lines. If it's not one religion against another, it's different denominations. Everyone seems to say, 'my religion's better than yours'. But this develops into, 'my religion's right and yours is wrong'. And then comes, 'everyone has to join my religion and yours is a bad influence and has to go'. And after that, there's bloodshed. We all know this, we see it on the news every day. But in the tit-for -tat rivalry, the big picture seems to have been lost."

    My audience was attentive. They were all too familiar with what I'd described.

    "If we are to live in a civilised society, we need to do better than this. We cannot solve our problems by repeatedly doing the same things over and over again in the vain hope that different results will magically appear. And we even do the things that cause the problems in the first place! If this isn't a definition of stupidity then I don't know what is."

    There were a few chuckles and many were smiling.

    "We need to do something different. Something new." I delivered the line as if it were a decisive blow and this would set the tone for the rest of my speech.

    "It's easy to criticise others. To blame everything on other people. It's easy to say, 'If only they would do as I do, everything would be all right'. But everyone says this. And everything is not all right."

    I made a point of making eye contact with the people in the room. I wanted them to know that I was talking to them, personally. I spoke slowly and deliberately. To me, the words I'd prepared seemed important and I wanted them to at least think about what I was saying.

    "We cannot expect anyone to change their ways unless we're willing to change ours. We expect others to be sceptical of their beliefs but we insist on holding fast to our own. Is that hypocrisy or what! We must embrace our doubts because without doubt, there are no questions and without questions there can be no answers.

    Every preacher preaches something different and everyone can't be right. Everyone can be wrong though. If I've learned anything in my quest for truth it's this: Doubt is not our enemy, and belief is not our friend."

    The speech seemed to be going well. No one had called out any objections or told me to stop. But the next part was daunting. If I could get through this without being heckled, I'd be almost there.

    "If we assume that there is a God and assume He's been active throughout history, what can we say about what this God might actually want?

    There have been many natural disasters. An all powerful God could have arrange for these to happen only in unpopulated areas but He didn't. Why didn't He?

    There are many kinds of virus and bacteria that cause illness and death. If these were created by God, why did He make them? Does He want people to suffer? If it were not for modern medicine there would be a high infant mortality rate. Does God want to kill babies and children?

    There is a great deal of disagreement between religious believers concerning many issues. It wouldn't have taken a miracle to avoid this. A few words here and there and the first religion would be the one and only religion for everyone. But God didn't organise this. Could God actively be seeking the division and eventual destruction of the church?

    There have been many atrocities committed or encouraged by religious leaders in the name of their religion. Preventing these would only have taken a few words to those who were supposedly closest to God. Is God's voice not loud enough or what?"

    I looked across the room. Everyone was staring at me. I had their attention at least. But are they still with me I wondered, have they understood? There was nothing for it but to continue.

    "If you consider these things, you may come to the conclusion that God, if He exists at all, is bending over backward to persuade people not to believe in Him. You may think He's decided that religion is no good for people, that we're far better off without it"

    Some people in the audience gave a smile while others were looking deadly serious.

    "I'm sure there are some here this evening who'd be willing to sacrifice their lives for God. Well, I have a question for you: If it is the will of God, would you be willing to sacrifice your religion? This is not a academic question either because it seems that this is exactly what God wants. So with all sincerity I ask you: Would you be willing to sacrifice your religion?"

    Everyone looked thoughtful.

    "And if, one day you come face to face with this God, do you really think He's going to care about what you believe? Or would He be more concerned with what kind of person you've been and how you've treated others.

    You don't have to believe what you religious leaders say. You don't have to believe what I say. If you want to be free, then be a free-thinker and make up your own mind. You are not defined by how you were brought up or by the history of your family or people. You are defined by what you choose to do. Each one of us perceives the world in much the same way as anyone else. Each one of us can think about the issues we face just as well as anyone else. If left to ourselves, there is no reason why we can't all come to much the same conclusions.

    But, of course, there is a reason. There are influences in our community that dictate what we should think, and they don't all give the same message."

    I looked across at all the people. They were looking back at me. Their attention was mine. Thy room was mine. As I spoke, my voice possessed the very air and it too, was mine.

    "We could choose to judge the wealth of this city by the number to theologians we have. Or, we could choose to judge it's wealth by the absence of suffering. If it was up to me, I'd stop asking, 'what do you believe?' and start asking, 'what do you need?' If it was up to me, I'd reach out a hand of friendship to my neighbours rather than shake a fist at them. But it isn't up to me. It's up to you. So what will you choose?

    If we can cast aside the prejudices of the past and disregard the influence of those who wish to control us, we can live the dream. The dream we all carry. The dream of that new and better world. Your neighbours are not your enemy. You leaders are not your friends. So think for yourself and be better than you are, and we will have that new and better world.

    Thank you."

    I sat down. There was applause and I supposed that the people were just being polite. The applause continued and when I looked up I realised I was the only person sitting. The speech must have struck a chord with many or perhaps they were just accustomed to very boring speeches.

    Many people seemed to be impressed with the speech and with me but some were very doubtful.

    "Do you really believe all those things you said about God? They sound a bit blasphemous to me. I'd be careful if I were you." one of them asked.

    "I haven't said anything about God." I replied, "I've raised some issues and asked some questions that's all. And that's all I've done in my book too. If you've come up with some answers, then those are your views, not mine. So you be careful."

    "Do you think all the churches should be closed down then?"

    "That might not be a bad idea" I said, "Best do that before people start asking for their money back."

    "I'd love to read your speech, it was so good but I can hardly remember it now. Could I have a copy?"

    "It's in my book, well, it will be when I've sent the update to the publisher."


    My career finally started properly with the position of Community Relations Officer with the city council. The Mayor was glad to fill the position since it had been nothing but trouble to all who'd held it.

    Changes to the status system were formally proposed. Much of the potential for bias would be removed and there'd be far less emphasis on religion. The penitent system was also to be overhauled and there was to be an interim system of inspections to guard against abuse, despite objections from social services concerning their increased workload. Some inter-community social events were arranged and tensions finally reduced to the point where the barricades and checkpoints could be removed. The 'tide' had finally 'turned' and everything was looking promising.

    I continued to ponder my identity. My distant memories seemed to be a compilation from several people. At least my recent memories were my own, unique to me. I'm defined by what I choose to do, not by where I've come from, I thought. I looked at my hands. I'm Richard Anderson, I told myself, and these, are my hands. I am my own nightmare and I make dreams come true.

    One day Jerry turned up at my office. "There's someone in the recovery room I think you'll want to have a word with" he said earnestly. "He says his name's Ricky Anton."

    With those words, I had a suitable ending for my book.
  2. Patra Felino

    Patra Felino Active Member

    Apr 5, 2012
    Likes Received:

    This wasn’t my favourite story of the 39 but I can see how it won. The idea is what science fiction is, or should be, all about. Recovery offers an exploration of the flaws in our society, particularly with regard to the negative aspects of religion and restrictions of personal freedom, through a twentieth-century person whose “soul” has been placed in a synthetic body, and revived in the twenty-second century. The initially agnostic, synthetic being acts as a device to describe the futuristic society, which is in many ways an exaggerated version of our own.

    What was good:

    The initial idea is very clever, and (typos aside) the story was written well. It developed at a good pace, the characters were distinct and all served a purpose, it was definitely science fiction. There were a few splashes of understated humour which worked well. Little details had been worked out cleverly, showing the amount of thought that was put into it. For example, there is (not too much and not too little) description of the status points system in the society, which are awarded for achievement and can be used to obtain better accommodation etc. Best of all, the story gives the reader something to think about afterwards, primarily the dangers of a society in which religion has too much control.

    What was bad:

    I have two problems with the story. Firstly, there are a number of typos throughout; I’m fairly positive it would need a proofreading before being submitted to any publication. I’m saying “typos” rather than grammatical errors because that’s really what they seemed to be – a series of slips made by someone who can otherwise write well. Secondly, (and others will disagree with the rest of this paragraph) from the start I had an inkling that the author was using the story to give voice to his personal opinions a bit too much. I didn’t really mind this (because it was so well done) until the speech at the end, where I thought this problem became far more noticeable. I also thought the ending was unrealistic, with the audience applauding his speech rather than the MC being dragged off and arrested. I thought that from what I understood of the society described, it is unlikely that the MC would have been able to really influence it as he did at the very end. I would (personally) have preferred a bleaker ending with the MC imprisoned by the religious nutters.

    Bits I liked (examples):

    The higher your status, the better society would treat you. The whole system was designed to provide incentives for people to better themselves. I thought it all seemed like a really good idea.

    The way in which the MC started off as an agnostic rather than an atheist, and approved of some aspects of the new society at first worked very well. In this way, the author was able to raise the negative aspects in a subtle and skilful manner.

    The speech must have struck a chord with many or perhaps they were just accustomed to very boring speeches.

    I thought this was a great comedic touch, making the MC, and even the author, seem humble. This was especially important after the grandiose speech, which, as I’ve already said, I thought was a little on the unrealistic side.

    At first, moving my limbs had been like operating a machine by remote control. It felt as though I was pulling on levers to work a mechanical digger.

    Yep, mechanical diggers look pretty unwieldy, alright. A great piece of well-thought-out description.

    Bits I didn’t like (examples):


    As the colours faded and the movement slowed I began to see strips between the them.

    The patient is in the other room, conscious."

    There was also a report on a group of scientists who were trying to have creationism removed from the school/schoolsscience curriculum.

    As the days passed, I become more accustomed to my new body and I became more able to move around.

    Gradually this changes changed to simply thinking of how I wanted to move and my limbs would respond.

    There are also issues with the punctuation in the dialogue, but it’s no formality to correct them (what with the UK vs. US styles etc.). But yeah, these are the errors that I found by quickly scanning through the first 1000 words or so. A proofreader would fix that instantly, though.


    "Some of you may be surprised at my presence here, and I must include myself since I found it very surprising to suddenly turn up here in the twenty-third century having grown up in the twentieth.

    The rest of the story referred to the twenty-second century.

    There you go. If you would like me to clarify any of my points or answer any specific questions, I'd be happy to do so.
  3. fmmarcy

    fmmarcy Member

    Oct 20, 2011
    Likes Received:
    North Carolina
    This story deserves the win based on the strength of its fantastic premise alone. This is the type of sci-fi concept that Asimov might have come up with. Great job and thank you for sharing it with us!
    Aled James Taylor likes this.
  4. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

    Sep 7, 2013
    Likes Received:
    @Petra Felino Thank you for the critique. Very fair, I thought. You’re right about the reference to the twenty-third century; this should be the twenty second. I’m not entirely happy with the ending either. I had imagined the people being generally unhappy with the system so the speech was meant to encourage more of a 'coming out' rather than a 'change of mind'. Also the religious authorities would only lobby government to have laws passed in their favour and be influencing the points system, not actually being in command of law enforcement. But looking back, I do seem to have overlooked establishing this situation. A darker ending may indeed be more appropriate.

    When I started this story I had enough ideas for it to fill a page. By the end it was bursting at the seams, having reached the upper word limit. There was more non-religious content I would have like to include (and have done since) but that would have meant deleting existing sections to remain within the word limit. I was concerned that without a strong religious theme, I wouldn’t have much of a story. But perhaps I’ve overdone it.

    Thank you again for your comments, they've been most helpful.
  5. Andrae Smith

    Andrae Smith The Fool and the Master Supporter Contributor

    Jun 22, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Within the Eye of the Storm
    @Aled James Taylor, I said it before and I will say it again, I am thoroughly impressed. I loved the themes and the characterization. You presented the questions in a reasonable way and the world seemed to be one we could definitely face. A few criticisms I have are the number if times "I" is used in the story, the way the story sort of rushes through things towards the end, and the way the dialogue comes across a little too perfectly from the 2nd half on. Of course you already know about the typos.

    Regardless, this is an award winning piece, and I am pleased that you tackled the themes you did. I feel like the story is one that should be expanded to include the sub arcs that you started to develop. It would be great to read more. I also would have liked to see a little more tension and perhaps some difficulty for Richard. Either way, you tell one hell of a story.

    Well done indeed. :)
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  6. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

    Sep 7, 2013
    Likes Received:
    @Andrae Smith Thank you for your comments. They were most encouraging. I hadn't even considered how the use of 'I' might be an issue. Thank you for pointing this out. I shall review the text with your comments in mind.

    I now have an expanded and much changed version of this story that includes an entirely different ending and I'd much appreciate it if someone could look over it for me. So if anyone's interested, please send me a private message (start a conversation) and I'll be happy to send you the text.

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