The Exchange

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Donald twiddled his thumbs nervously as he waited. The cushion of the fancy chair he sat in was too hard, and the leather grated uncomfortably into his backside. He was beginning to lose his nerve, but just as he was thinking of running to the desk of the overly attractive receptionist and feigning ill, the sliding glass doors at the end of the atrium receded into the walls with a soft whoosh to reveal the two most startlingly beautiful people Donald had ever seen.
“Mr. Calvin! It’s such a pleasure to finally meet you.” She was six feet tall, with long auburn hair that fell in ringlets to her shoulders. She had high, striking cheekbones that made Duncan feel extremely flushed. She extended her hand, and Duncan shook it awkwardly.
“My name is Doctor Malcolm Stewart,” said the man as he stepped forward, “and this is my wife-“
“Doctor Layla Stewart,” She said, never releasing Duncan’s hand and giving him a smile that could light the world afire. He was uncomfortably aware of the look Dr. Stewart caste in the direction of his wife, so Duncan extricated his hand from Layla’s grip and offered it to her husband.
“It’s nice to meet you, Doctor Stewart,” Duncan said in his thick Kentucky drawl. “I’m eager to hear more about your program.” He said feebly.
“The pleasure is mine, Mr. Calvin,” Stewart said as he took Duncan’s outstretched hand. “This way, if you please.” Stewart led Duncan down the long hallway from whence he came, with Layla bringing up the rear. The office door at the end of the hall sprang open as soon as Stewart was close enough for the sensor to read his biometrics. The decor of the office matched the opulence of the atrium. A marble-topped desk sat in front of Stewart’s platinum lined wing-back chair, and the brightly colored fish that filled the massive tank lining the back wall swam through miniature replicas of Roman and Greek wonders.
“Magnificent, aren’t they?” Stewart had caught Duncan gazing at the fish.
“I’ve never seen so many outside of an aquarium.” Duncan uttered in wonder.
“My travels have afforded me the opportunity to become quite the collector, I dare say.” Stewart smiled warmly and said, “I am truly sorry I must share my collection with you under these circumstances, but it’s always a privilege to showcase one’s efforts. Wouldn’t you agree?” He waved his hand over the desk before Duncan could reply to produce a hologram of his medical chart.
“Your prognosis,” Layla said, “is not very promising. Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease.” She sighed pityingly.
“I’d like to think I wouldn’t be here if I had the choice.” Duncan said weakly. “Not many people would sign up to have their brain sucked out.”
“That’s not quite how I would put it, Mr. Calvin.” Stewart said with a chuckle.
“How would you put it then?” Duncan’s fear made his voice rise, and he felt guilty for snapping at Stewart. “I’m sorry. This is just a lot to take in.”
“I understand, Mr. Calvin, but this isn’t a horror movie. This is a miracle of modern science that will put your name into the history books!” Dr. Stewart seemed more excited than Duncan felt.
“I know you may not share our optimism,” Layla said, “But we’re confident in this procedure, and our technology is the best in the world.” Layla waved her hand over the hologram, changing the projection to an image of Duncan’s brain. She moved her thumb and forefinger apart so the image zoomed in to show the synapses. “Your memories are nothing but electrical impulses stored in your brain’s memory bank, cataloged for easy retrieval.” She swiped her hand across the display again, bringing up two brains side by side. “As you can imagine, the amount of information is quite vast, so our proposal is to download these impulses onto our quantum processors. After, we will remove your diseased organ and replace it with the donor’s. Once your new organ is in place, we will simply upload your memories from our servers back into your brain. Simple as that.” She smirked, and Duncan felt his temperature rise.
“That’s what I’m hesitant about.” Duncan said. “The donor locating process doesn’t seem entirely… moral.” In order to live, Duncan knew, he would have to take life from someone else. He didn’t want to die, but he had always had a craven disposition.
“What is more immoral, I ask you,” Layla said, maintaining her cool, “Killing one prisoner in the name of science, or letting one of the greatest philanthropists of the last century die a horrible death from a terrible disease?” Duncan was scared, but Layla’s beauty made him want to act brave.
“He’s a murderer in his universe, right?” Duncan asked half-heartedly.
“His name is Jack Wheeler,” Dr. Stewart said, “And in his universe he was responsible for fifteen homicides.”
“Will I become a murderer?!” Duncan asked worriedly.
“We completely wipe the donor’s memories from the organ. None of his tendencies will transplant to you.” Dr. Stewart said as he stood. “Our team brought him through the wormhole just as you arrived. If you’re willing, we can operate this afternoon.”
Duncan wasn’t sure about anything except that he wanted to live long enough to see Layla’s smile again, so he gave a confident, “Yes.” He clasped hands with the Stewarts in turn, and Malcolm called for a nurse to take Duncan to the operating room.
He stirred as Layla came into the Recovery Room. “How are you feeling, Mr. Calvin?” she asked. He stared at her confusedly.
“Who?” he asked.
“Short-term memory loss is to be expected, Mr. Calvin. Don’t worry, you’ll be back to normal in no time.”
“My memory is fine, I just don’t know who Mr. Calvin is.” Layla looked at him wide-eyed, scarce believing her ears.
“What’s your name?” she asked, praying she was asleep and this just some awful nightmare.
“Jack. Jack Wheeler.”

About the Author: 
Jarrod is a college student from Dubuque, IA. He enjoys reading, movies, Netflix binges, and anything nerdy.