I often wonder how many geniuses really exist.
Look around you, next time you’re out in public. People everywhere, streaming by, bustling about on the worthless minutiae of their everyday lives. No one challenges them. There’s no dire, life or death need. Their requirements for survival are filled, they busy themselves with the tiny, unimportant, trivial details.
They possess no roaring storm to transform their tiny flame of genius into a roaring inferno. So instead, that little flame gutters and eventually extinguishes itself.
I look around at these others with dismay, sadness, because I used to be like them.
Once, all my needs were met. I lived a happy life, relatively speaking. I worked at a good job, owned a good little house with a good little mortgage that slowly disappeared from good little payments, and celebrated every Friday with my good little friends.
It all went well – up until the medical appointment.
Just a lump. Just taking samples. Just a standard assessment by the lab. Just standard cancer, likely to respond favorably to treatment.
Hah. Just another little flame, slowly burning itself into nothingness.
I knew, however, from that first appointment. I wasn’t going to have the happy ending, the triumphant little picture of me, a scarf covering my head, grinning and holding up my fist in victory. For the first time in my existence, I found myself staring at my own mortality.
And faced with that chasm, the little flame inside of me sprang into life.
I needed to beat this cancer, win the war of attrition against my own cells, but I knew that I couldn’t rest easy after a win. Every single cell in my body held a ticking time bomb, threatening to go rogue and take me out in a suicide attack. I could fight them off, but not all of them. Not forever.
I needed to escape.
I turned to the wealth of humanity’s knowledge, alternating my binges between the library and the internet. I crammed my brain full, as many facts as it could hold, and then pushed in still more. I read until my eyes burned, and listened to lectures and recordings until my ears were deafened. I spent my nest egg – what use would I have for it otherwise – and built myself a laboratory, a workshop, a forge.
And I reforged myself.
Milled aluminum and titanium struts, lightweight and strong. Banded polymer muscles, designed to contract when stimulated by implanted electrodes. Silicon relays, connected to selectively permeable sensory membranes to pick up on neurotransmitter signal fluctuations.
I started with an arm.
I ran as many tests as I could, but eventually, I had to go under the knife. I paid a man, a former surgeon, a man fallen on hard times. He saw my burning flame, perhaps sensed the heat of my potential. I instructed him, made him repeat it all back, did my best to teach him what he needed to know before he put me to sleep with the carefully calculated dose of anesthesia.
I woke up, opened my eyes. I didn’t turn my head. I felt for my arm, both arms. Slowly, first one and then the other, I lifted them up.
My left arm looked flabby, sad, spotted with moles and imperfections.
My right arm gleamed with the promise of a brighter future.
I deemed the experiment a qualified success. It responded perfectly, moved smoothly, performed admirably. I soon began work on other limbs, building the body that would hold my future.
I’m still working on the brain, however. Motor neurons are replaced by wires leading to intra-polymer electrodes. Sensory neurons are replaced by piezoelectric layered plastic, producing signals in response to pressure feedback. But duplicating the massive tangled web inside my skull will require a more intricate creation.
Still, I think to myself as I lean back, watching the movements inside my limbs as they obey my mental commands. Made of organics or metal, I am no tin man, no automaton.
I don’t need flesh to be human.