There Are an Infinite Number of Stories to Tell, but Eventually You Run Out of Time by Steven Wolf

“It’s not like I’m sharing needles or fucking in gas station bathrooms. I don’t know how it happened.”

“Did you see that? Did you see that one, babe? We got good seats, yeah?”

I am a woman put together in very interesting ways. Hello, my name is Carol. Hello, Carol, where are you from? Every morning I say hello to all my body parts to make sure they are still there. Hello, fingers. Hello, toes. Hello, intestinal lining. I count all the major organs squishy inside me like they are filled with beans, and tap out music on my ribcage, proving I’m still here, alive and kicking!

Today is a day with quiet and cold. It is like most other days. I wander through empty shopping malls and elementary schools, and sit in chairs that are not mine, but maybe they are mine because there is no one to tell me they are not mine. I go back to Dreamscape Inc. headquarters and sift through the body parts people didn’t want, and eat food from the fridge that is clearly marked “Jeanette” even though I am not Jeanette. I am Carol.

“Did you sleep with her, Mark? What happened?”

When Dreamscape Inc. came along and offered Wicked Cool Deals® on body transplants, people decided to make themselves over anew. People did not like their bodies, so Dreamscape Inc. offered alternatives to not liking that part of you until you die. Like organ transplants, but with body parts grown perfectly in a lab using their perfected Beauty Formula®.

Hello, beautiful elbows.

Hello, stunning breasts.

Hello, touchy-feely fingers.

A lady at Dreamscape Inc. who got bored one day connected many excess lady parts together. She put together lady arms and lady legs and lady stomachs and then created a Brain® from the brain parts people did not want. People often switch out brains now, too! It’s all very interesting. If you think your problem-reasoning skills are bad, switch out that part of your brain for a brain part that is more capable of problem-reasoning skills. Everyone was perfect at math. Everyone knew everything about Inuit literature and everyone left exactly 15% tips. And as smartness and good thinking expanded, Brain Upgrades® became accessible to people of all incomes. Soon, everyone was a hundred percent, a-okay mister! The smartest, brightest, best jokesters around!

I’m that lady who was made from spare brain parts, the parts that don’t think so well. They don’t do math well, and they are only kind of funny, and they only think of comebacks for that bitch Deborah who thinks she knows everything after they leave the wedding. After the Brain Upgrades®, everyone was so good at parties! Parties were awful because everyone was the life of the party. Everyone could sing beautiful arias and step beautiful salsa numbers because they had special Skill Injections® and were now masters of these things. Everyone could make great quesos and guacamoles. Everyone felt awkward and wanted to leave.

“You dumb shit. We bought these guns so we could blast the head off that political shit show. Adios, motherfucker!”

“Hola, amigo! Me llamo Marsella Marquez.”

I have a lot of memories that people didn’t want anymore. When people didn’t want to remember things they had them forcibly removed with a Forcible Removal Procedure®. I remember bad things and sad things people didn’t want to remember. When I am alone, I think thoughts that aren’t mine, and transcribe the poetry in my head that is pretty okay, and remember things that are not belonging to me. I remember my son pressing his head against my wool jacket and saying, “Mom, you smell like a flower.” This should be a nice memory but it’s not a nice memory because there is another memory of this same boy in a small box after he drowns in a pool and I am very sad. There is an old lady tapping my hand saying, “Charles, where will we go? Where are we going, Charles?” And then she is curled on the bathroom floor and I am sad again because Mom? Mom? Mom? and did she know I loved her?

“I can’t live with you anymore. I don’t know how to stop thinking about it.”

“Grandma Keiko? What does it means when you do this with your finger?”

To escape the awkwardness of parties and social situations where they were not the only best at everything, everyone made perfect individual spaceships and invented individual house planets two hundred million light years away. Everyone went to live on their respective house planets. Everyone was feeling very happy when they left, but also very nervous, so everyone had nervous removed and there was only Happy®. Now, they all sit on their individual house planets two hundred million light years away in small white picket houses with green lawns and they are the best! They sit in living rooms on couches and smile because they know everything, and are good at everything, and are thrilled with aloneness because they all had loneliness removed when that technology came out.

Everyone looks into their individual sky at the other planets and thinks, “Those planets are very existing.” They try to think of a word that makes “existing” seem more like a positive kind of existing. They know the words “beautiful,” and they know all of Wordsworth’s poetry, but it’s more beautiful as fact because everything is beautiful. Each floating world of green grass is beautiful, and they are beautiful, too!

“Sit here. Sit with me. I want to tell you something.”

My whole body is scars and moles and toes that are weird looking. I like to wander around the empty planet.

I sit with an old lover and he kisses my knuckles. He tells me he’s very much in love with me and he doesn’t ever want to leave. He dies of cancer two years later and I am sad because I know this will happen. I don’t know if I hate our sitting there and him kissing my knuckles and him saying he’s very much in love with me, or if I love it more than anything in the whole entire world. It feels happy right now. I think it’s a nice memory because I am happy when I have it, and am excited it happened at all.

Steven Wolf lives in Southern California with his partner and no cats. His work has been featured in The Adroit Journal, LUMINA, Psychopomp, Pseudopod Podcast, and The Austin Film Festival, among others. He does Twitter @wolfymcwolfwolf and just recently started therapy. It’s going okay, thanks for asking.

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