He sat by the window, his gaze meandering across the verdant countryside. Despite the pleasantness of the day, his disposition was anything but sunny.
“We need to talk,” said a voice behind him.
“Not in the mood for another of your lectures,” he said, not even bothering to look at her.
“I’m ending our contract,” she said.
This forced his head to turn, and a concern that rose to fear crossed his face. “Why?”
“You’re not living up to your end of the bargain.”
“I told you I just need a little time to adjust.”
“It’s been three years, I think I’ve been more than patient.”
“It’s not my fault that I still remember my last body and the life that came with it.”
“And it shouldn’t be my problem that you agreed to be ReFilled before you were ready.”
“You told me you loved this body.”
“I do. That body fits perfectly with me. Luckily your brooding hasn’t put too much wear and tear on it which is why I’m not asking for a RePlacement, just a ReFill.”
“So, you aim to keep the body, just not the person currently occupying it,” he shook his head. “I’ll appeal.”
“Your appeal grace period has passed. You had a six-month window, it’s been three years, remember?”
“I can try—try to be the man you want me to be, need me to be.”
“It’s too late for that. I’ve already filled out the paperwork. You’re being ReStocked tonight and I’ll have a brand new ReFill by morning. I thought I’d give you some time to prepare yourself. And don’t even think about being petty and damaging that body, self-harm restraints have been activated to prevent any vindictiveness.”
“Even if the safeguards weren’t in place, I wouldn’t have done that. I’m not a vindictive man.”
“I know. It’s just a precaution. None of this would have been necessary, you realize, had you just opened up to me.”
He considered that a moment before asking, “Have you ever been ReStocked?”
“No. Original body and soul going on forty years now.”
“Then you don’t know what it’s like, being ripped from a warm body and placed in any icy limbo queue with other souls who moan incessantly about the lives they left behind, on and on for what feels like an eternity, until the memory purge takes place and all the souls become ReConditioned and ReTurned to factory settings.
“But sometimes the process doesn’t work, sometimes a soul remembers what it had, what it lost.
“In my case, I had a wife who I loved more than anything in the world and two precious little girls who were carbon copies of their mother. I would have died to keep them safe, and I did.
“There was a break-in in my home, in my previous home. An intruder made a noise that woke the girls and the girls came and woke my wife and I. I told them to go to the bathroom, it’s the most secure room in the house, in case you didn’t know, and I told them to lock the door and stay there until I came to get them.
“There were no weapons in the house, my wife and I wouldn’t have a gun in the same house as curious children, but I played golf, I bet you didn’t know that about me, so armed with a golf club, I crept downstairs but I must have made a noise because the burglar was waiting for me with a gun. He shot me at point blank range and the gunshot made my girls scream.
“The burglar climbed the stairs and kicked at the bathroom door until it gave in. My wife put the girls in the bathtub and stood in front of them shielding them with her body as the burglar raised his gun…
“I pounced on him trying to wrestle the gun away. Ignoring the pain of my wound, I struggled with all my might to pull the gun muzzle away from my family and I managed to get the gun between us when it went off.
“The bullet killed the burglar, but his first shot and the excessively bleeding that followed proved to be my undoing.
“That’s why I couldn’t be what you wanted me to be, because in my mind I’m still married to a woman who has probably moved on, and I couldn’t bear to cheat on her. I would have traveled to them, my family, but it seems the memory purge was successful in wiping out their names and location. The memory fades slightly each day and my hope was that it would have faded enough to give you what you needed from this body, but it seems I’ve run out of time.”
“Why couldn’t you tell me all this before?” she asked.
“For fear you would have ReStocked me sooner.”
She took him by the hand and led him to the bedroom. The plan was to make their remaining time together pleasant for both of them but he wasn’t ready for that level of connection, so they climbed into bed and fell asleep in each other’s arms until day turned to night.
He woke to her nakedness. She was sitting astride him and to his bewilderment, he was naked too. Pinned beneath her, he closed his eyes and gave into her control of the situation but in his mind, he was with his wife, a woman whose name he could no longer recall and whose face was clouded like a steam-misted bathroom mirror.
After she reached the pinnacle and collapsed into his arms, he said, “You don’t look forty in the least.”
She raised herself on her elbows and pressed her lips to his but by that time the body that fit so well with her own was in the process of being ReFilled.