Darcy stared at the white leaflet in her hand. “Fresh Start Clinic,” it said in bright green letters. A small red logo that looked like a pair of open scissors came after the word “clinic”. The rest of the flyer went on to talk about their services including “Selective Memory Erasing” and “Character Rebuilding”. Darcy had been considering visiting the clinic for a few months.
More than a couple of her coworkers went through the “Character Rebuilding” process and raved about it as vaguely as they could. Their secrecy was a required part of the service and they were unwilling to talk about it in depth. All they could say was, “You should try it.” That morning an errant flyer landed in her lap. The train stopped to load and unload; when the door opened a gust of wind blew the leaflet into the train and it fluttered down to her. In the back of her mind, she took it as an omen and half-decided to visit the clinic.
“Ms. West?” a woman called out. Darcy looked toward the voice and saw a young woman in a white lab coat standing by an open door. Darcy stood up tentatively and glanced around at the other patients apologetically. She didn’t know how she got to the front of the line. She walked up to the woman and they exchanged smiles. “This way,” she said. The woman led Darcy into a long, narrow, white hallway. “In here,” she said. The woman stopped in front of an open door to Darcy’s right. Darcy walked into a small office that looked like a wider version of the hall. The walls, floor, and ceiling were all matte white and the office was longer than it was wide.
A glass wall divided the length of the room. On the other side of the glass pane, the walls remained white. A juvenile pine tree with red needles grew out of the white floor. On Darcy’s side of the glass, a red wooden desk sat with a chair in front of it and one behind it. Darcy took the chair in front and expected to wait some more. She was surprised when the woman that called her walked around and sat behind the desk. Darcy had to remind herself she was not in a doctor’s office.
“Hello, Ms. West. My name is Beatrize,” she smiled and offered Darcy her hand. “But, you may call me Bea. May I call you Darcy?” she asked. Darcy nodded and shook Bea’s hand simultaneously. “Wonderful,” Bea said. “So, what brings you here today, Darcy?”
“Character Rebuilding. I mean, I wanted to find out more information about what it is,” Darcy said. Bea nodded with a large smile.
“It’s more or less what it says,” Bea gestured at Darcy with her hand. “Imagine yourself, as you are now, as an RPG character. We let you choose your options and rebuild yourself any way you like.”
“Oh,” Darcy said. Her voice came out soft and disappointed. Even before she could wonder about how those things were even possible she came to one conclusion. It sounded expensive. “That’s probably out of my reach,” Darcy said apologetically. “Thank you for your time.”
“You can’t afford free?” Bea asked as Darcy stood; the woman sat down again upon hearing the word.
“How.. how is something like that free?” she asked.
“Our clinic is a non-profit organization,” Bea said. “That aside, we have a corporate sponsor that covers all our running costs. Sharp Development isn’t after a profit, they want to change the world,” Bea sat up straighter in her seat. And, we don’t advertise our prices, anyone that gets the procedure done has to sign several NDAs. If we don’t tell anyone it’s free, we only get people genuinely interested in the service.” Darcy dared to get her hopes up. “Free” was well within her price range.
“How long does it take?” she asked. If it was free and it didn’t take too long she hoped she could get it done then and there. Bea shrugged.
“10, maybe 15 minutes.”
“Really?!” Darcy’s eyes widened and she sat up straighter on the edge of her seat. “Do I need to make an appointment?” Bea shook her head with a smile.
“You’re here already.”
“YES!” Darcy’s voice was almost a shout; Bea jumped slightly in her seat, then smiled. She reached into a drawer in her desk and pulled out a manila folder. She set it on the desk with a pen next to it.
“I’ll need you to sign some forms. This might seem odd, but I assure you there’s a reason for everything.” Darcy gave Bea a puzzled look as she picked up the pen. She wondered what exactly would seem odd about filling out permissions for a procedure; then, she saw it. At the very top of the first sheet was a surprising sentence.[I hereby grant Sharp Development ownership of my soul.] followed by a line for her signature. Darcy dropped the pen and sat back.
“Selling my soul isn’t ‘free’,” she said with crossed arms. Bea shook her head slightly, smiled, then stood from her seat. She encouraged Darcy to stand next to her; then she turned and looked through the glass divider.
“As I said, everything is there for a reason.” Bea tapped the glass with her finger and the floor around the red pine tree began to recede. “We don’t have a use for your soul; we’re not trying to buy it from you. However, we do need you to sign it over to us so we can move it. We cannot touch your soul without your permission.”
“Move it?” Darcy asked. She kept her eyes on watching the floor reveal the lower part of the young tree. Its trunk sank into a clear glass case shaped like a coffin. A brunette woman that looked like a younger Bea rested in the coffin with her eyes closed. She was probably dead; the dark tree trunk growing out of her chest was a strong hint. “What’s going on? Who’s that?” Darcy asked.
“That’s my body,” Bea said. She turned and poked Darcy’s soft stomach. “Your body is only good for about 100 years, but that tree has a much, much longer lifespan. So the tree takes my soul and keeps it safe. As long as that tree is standing…,” Bea curtsied. “…so am I.”
“So.. if I don’t sign my soul over..?”
“No procedure. We don’t have anything we can do for you if we don’t have permission.”
“But… I wanted to build a new life,” Darcy shook her head. “I don’t want to have to be myself for another century or two.” Bea’s brunette hair shimmered and grew longer; her face sparkled. After a moment Darcy was staring at herself. Bea shook her head and the long chestnut strands seemed to fall out, but they disappeared before landing. A tall Asian man stood in Bea’s place.
“You don’t have to,” Bea said with a masculine voice. Without another word, Darcy walked back to the desk and began filling in the form. She started by signing her soul over to Sharp Development.