“New Normal” by Jeffrey Ricker, published by Untreed Reads, 2010.

Let the record show that this story pre-dates the similarly-titled television show.

It’s funny, I didn’t remember these as being fragments. I first read them almost two years ago, and recollected them as complete stories. They’re not, or at least this one and the previous one aren’t. I’ll let you know shortly about the next one.

Jess wakes in a hospital room of the future, only to be told he died sixth months earlier.  Under the right circumstances now death is just another symptom to be treated. All the professionals have to do is download a person’s personality onto a chip and then grow a duplicate body for them in a lab. In half a year or so, voila! A brand new start.

If only it were that simple. Poor Jess feels unmoored from the man he used to be, similar to someone with amnesia. Intellectually he knows the facts of his previous life, but he can’t feel anything about them beyond a mild curiosity. It’s worst where it concerns his partner, Gary. He’s been an angel through the whole thing, hardly leaving Jess’ bedside. The last thing Jess wants to do is hurt him, but the truth is he feels nothing for the man.

These are familiar themes in the author’s work: A person who has undergone a physical transformation, who keeps contrasting the similarities and differences between the person they are now and the one they used to be; an old self that fit into its surroundings, and a new one that does not.

As with the last selection, it’s a great set-up and I wish there was an ending to this story.

For more from this author see Short Stories 365 / 62, 95, 110, 175, 254, 309 and 327.