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St. Theophilus the Penitent

February 14, 2017

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Rich Larson was born in Galmi, Niger, has studied in Rhode Island and worked in the south of Spain, and now lives in Ottawa, Canada. Since he began writing in 2011, he’s sold over a hundred stories, the majority of them speculative fiction published in magazines like Asimov’s, Apex, Clarkesworld, F&SF, Lightspeed, OMNI, and Tor.com. His debut novel, Annex, comes out from Orbit Books in July 2018, and his debut collection, Tomorrow Factory, follows in October 2018 from Talos Press. Find more at richwlarson.tumblr.com and support him via patreon.com/richlarson.

The printing nozzles skittered back and forth with eerie grace, laying strands of snow-white tendon over black carbon-fiber bone. Wyatt didn’t watch. He knew that in 24 hours the artificial muscle would dissolve, leaving a base skeleton bare for the next client. He was more concerned with straightening his red tie, finding the ideal angle for the matching rose in his clenched-white hand.

He was no hedonist, but one evening every February, after ensuring his wife was comfortably occupied, he allowed himself this indulgence. Wyatt looked over as skinspray nozzles began coating the body’s contours with a ruddy complexion familiar to his eyes, familiar to his fingertips. The face emerged. His breathing quickened.

She was so beautiful. The symmetry of her bones, the curl of her lips, her body lithe and whole. Nothing like the image he saw on his tab as he checked, how he’d done every few minutes for the past four years, on his wife. Scooped-hollow cheeks, eyes glazed over, being helped to bed by the puffy white caretaker unit. She recognized him only once or twice a month.

The neural facsimile he kept stored for the yearly encounter was his wife as he remembered her, sharp-edged, bright-eyed. But there was one key addition: she knew about the accident, and she knew it has his fault.

Some years she raged at him; some years she forgave him. Some years they fucked; some years they sat in silence for hours on end.

Every year, Wyatt wept.

© Rich Larson