by Amanda J. Marshall

“Ouch!” Alice cried.

She looked down and slid back the kitchen knife to survey the damage. At first, all she noticed was a white line on her index finger, but, after a pause, blood fiercely spurted out, raining down on the freshly sliced carrots. She grabbed a towel off the stove handle and held it down. She started to feel faint, and it wasn’t because of the blood.

This is how it starts, she thought to herself. This is the beginning of the end. 

Alice’s thoughts went to her mother and how her path of augmentations began similarly. It started with a popping crackle in her left knee. At first, it only bothered her mother when she used the stairs, but before long the crackling followed her with every step. Father and the doctor worked together to convince her that a full leg replacement was the best option. She remembered her mother was hesitant, but eventually conceded to the pressures. 

After the first augmentation, each additional one required less convincing, although it was ultimately Father’s decision. It’s true that the changes did make her mother’s housework incredibly efficient. The replaced limbs skillfully blasted through chores, but Alice also remembered how each augmentation took a little more light from her mother’s eyes. The last time Alice saw her, she stared blankly forward while Father chatted away. She only got up when something needed cleaning or doing. Her bionic limbs moved for her, taking her human torso and head along for the ride. 

Alice was terrified of her mother’s fate and lived her life cautiously, trying to avoid augmentations. Now, the inevitable injury had come. 

She glanced down at the growing red stain on the towel and took in a deep breath to calm her wits. Her eyes wandered over to a simple black frame that rested on the wall before the living room. It held her wedding photo, a memento from a time when her body was young. The girl’s face in the photo beamed up at her husband, too far away from the need for augmentations to rightfully fear him.

She parted her lips to speak, stopped herself, and then started again. “Fred, dear? Can you come in here?” She called firmly, but not quite a shout.

“I’ll be right there, Alice,” Fred replied, his voice volume fluctuating as he bent to get up. A few paces from the next room over, and Fred immediately saw the blood. “Alice—what happened?!”

“It’s alright, Fred,” she assured. He tried to slowly pull away the towel. “No, just leave it,” she insisted, jerking her hand away. “I think I need stitches, let’s just get to the doctor.”

“Right, right,” Fred agreed, his voice sounding a little panicked. “Get in the car, I’ll turn off the stove and throw this in the fridge.” Alice watched as his eyes fixed on the cutting board.

“I looked away for just a second,” Alice explained. “One second of daydreaming and the knife came down wrong.” Her uninjured hand’s fingers started pulling on the towel’s frayed strings.

Fred gave her a reassuring pat. “Don’t worry. We will fix this.” He started to say something more but stopped himself, and reached into a nearby drawer to retrieve another towel. “Here, take this too.” 

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Author Bio

Amanda J. Marshall resides in Northern New York and is a current student in the MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing program at Emerson College. When she isn’t reading or writing you will find her dragging her family to the top of mountains in the Adirondacks. 

Instagram: @mandymarshwrites

Facebook: @Amanda J. Marshall