2017 Valentine’s Flash Fiction Winner
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 was born in West Africa, has studied in Rhode Island and worked in Spain, and now writes from Ottawa, Canada. His short work has been featured on io9, translated into Polish and Italian, and appears in numerous Year’s Best anthologies as well as in magazines such as Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld, F&SF, Interzone, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Apex. Find him at richwlarson.tumblr.com.