I nearly piss myself when the wheel finally comes to a complete stop. I blink several times, just to be sure. I am not seeing things, not today. The arrow points at the sparkling, gold panel, the only one of its kind on the entire roulette.
The host turns to me, microphone pressed right up close to his ridiculous porcelain grin. “Congratulations!” he beams, oozing with synthetic glee, “You’ve just won a NEWWWWW LIIIFE! Charlie, tell us what she’s won.”
I already know what the prize entails, yet I can’t help the tears rolling down my cheeks as the video starts to roll and Charlie’s disembodied co-host voice booms out over the studio audience.
“Ever felt like you just wanted to run away from it all?
To start out fresh, somewhere new?
Well as our grand prize winner, you can!
Welcome to the first day of the rest of your NEW LIFE.
You’ll be assigned a shiny, new identity, and with it, ALL THE PERKS!
All debt, wiped clean. Credit score 850. $2 million in the bank.
Plus, a $50,000 cosmetic reconstruction credit from our sponsors Aphrodite Augmentations.
And that’s not all!
Thanks to our patented Memory Mop, all your past mistakes, regrets, indiscretions, and failures will be wiped CLEAN.”
The camera pans to me, still blubbering. The other contestants crush me with hugs, whether genuine or jealous, at this point I don’t care. I never expected to actually win, hell I was grateful just to get on the show. I needed the distraction, desperately.
“… Until next time folks, imagine what you would do, if you won a NEW LIFE.”
As soon as the crew stops recording the host’s smile warps into a flat line. He doesn’t speak another word to me.
One assistant retrieves me, another shuffles away the others.
“Lucky ducky,” he says, “wish I could win such a fab prize. Sign here, here, here, initial pages 5-27, social security number, hah, well current social security number, seriously, so jelly, sign here, aaaand, done. Right this way.”
He guides me to another stage, publicity photoshoot. “Girl, you don’t even need that plastic credit, well I guess technically you do, otherwise someone might recognize you, but gawd I would love to get this jaw fixed. I’m thinking that Cillian Murphy chin, oooh like a razor’s edge. If only I could get those baby blues too. I’d say bye to my momma for that.”
My face hurts from smiling. It’s strange to think that the next time I see these pictures, I won’t even recognize them as myself.
“Speaking of,” he says, “do you have anyone you need to say good bye to? We set aside 30 minutes between the promo materials and the Memory Mop, just in case.”
There’s not, I have no one anymore. Just Me, Myself, & I.
The assistant wanders off and I wait the 30 minutes alone.
He returns and I’m escorted into a lounge with two plush chairs and plenty of black and white portraits. A woman in a lab coat enters with a clip board. She doesn’t ask me a thing, simply stares at the clip board, makes additional notes, then waves a wand over my face.
For a moment, I’m confused, and then, I’m relaxed.
I’m not “I” anymore.
I don’t even know who “I” was.
I’m Sloan Silvers now. They let me pick my name. I remember I won a contest, so I picked a name that sounded lucky. They all tell me I’m lucky.
They wheel me to another office and examine me. I pee in a cup.
Another lab coat enters and we decide Sloan Silvers has a pointier nose and puffier lips. They can fit her in this afternoon.
Sloan waits in a waiting room, sipping cucumber water.
Sloan gets called back in an hour later. The lab coat asks her to take a seat.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Silvers, we will have to postpone the surgery.”
They tell Sloan she’ll have to be put away for now, legally, she can’t see her face until after. Scrambles the brain to see yourself in the in between time. “For how long?” Sloan asks.
It’ll be worth it, just a short while.
“But when can I start my New Life?”
After, they say.
“But I’m stuck right now. No past, no future.”
That’s right. That doesn’t matter. Just focus on right now.
“But how can I focus on the now? I don’t even know who I am.”
It doesn’t matter who you are, they say, not right now.
“But I need to start my New Life.”
“You don’t need a New Life, Ms. Silvers,” they say, “you have one growing inside of you. That’s all that matters right now.”
I wrote this story for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: https://wp.me/pv7MR-8kT