"Three Grams" by Jamie Lackey is original fiction from the anthology Speculative Story Bites. Get the whole anthology from Amazon, Kobo, or World Weaver Press.
When Alicia opened her eyes, everything looked different. Colors were strange—sharper and brighter than they had been before—and she could see tiny details that she’d never noticed.
She turned her head, and saw her father’s thin lips moving. She could count the fine hairs on his forehead. His voice sounded different, too. “How’re you feeling?”
She sat up, moving carefully. The familiar pain didn’t shoot through her. Of course it didn’t—she wasn’t in her old, broken body anymore. Her father had saved her, just like he’d promised to. “I feel great, Daddy.”
He grinned and hugged her. His body was warmer and softer than she remembered. “Let’s go see your mother.”
Her mother’s smile was strained. “Is it really her?” her mother whispered in her father’s ear, in a voice that would have been too quiet for Alicia to hear in her former body.
“The three grams that you were so worried about transferred into the new body with her memories,” he whispered back.
Her mother knelt beside her and hugged her, but only for a second. She pressed a distracted kiss to Alicia’s hair, then walked past her, into her father’s laboratory, where the broken, dead body that had been her prison lay strapped to a table. Alicia could hear her crying.
Anger surged through her, and her hands clenched into fists. How could her mother be upset? Alicia was still alive. And she wasn’t in pain anymore. Her mother should be happy.
“Why isn’t she happy?” Alicia asked.
“Your mother is just confused, honey,” her father said, pushing his glasses up his thin nose. “It’s going to take her some time to get used to the idea of you being better.”
Alicia stomped her foot. “She’s being selfish.”
“She just needs time.”
Alicia wandered around the garden. Her parents were fighting inside. About her, again. Her mother didn’t know that she could hear every time she called her a monster—each time she screamed about how Alicia was a Frankenstein creature, not human, not the child she had carried in her womb.
Alicia tried to listen to the friendlier sounds in the garden. The bees buzzed, the birds sang, the wind chimes rang. It was a beautiful day. In her old body, she would have been too hot, but now she hardly noticed.
The roses had just started blooming. She’d helped her mother plant the roses two years ago. Alicia had insisted that they plant red ones. She loved red. They’d laughed and thrown mud at each other while they planted them. It had been a good day.
How could her mother not believe that she was real? Alicia knew about the three grams that her father mentioned—according to her mother, that’s what the soul weighed. Alicia had her memories and her soul. Her new body looked just like her old one had. Daddy even said that she’d grow up just like normal. All that she didn’t have was the pain. Had that been what her mother loved?
Alicia’s anger bubbled up through her, and she punched the closest tree. Bark crunched beneath her knuckles. She pulled her hand back and examined it. She was completely undamaged. She looked at the tree. Green sap oozed out of the dented trunk.
She knew she should feel bad about hurting the tree. It hadn’t done anything wrong. But she didn’t feel bad. She didn’t feel anything except anger.
What if her mother was right?
Alicia stood on the scale in her father’s lab and scowled down at the numbers. She hadn’t lost any weight in the past three days, but that didn’t mean anything. Her soul could have leeched away before she started weighing herself. She had to find out how much she’d weighed before.
Her father’s notes were very unorganized. But Alicia had all night to sort through them. She didn’t need to sleep anymore.
Sometime after midnight, she heard a noise from the kitchen, and she froze. She saw her mother standing by the refrigerator, bathed in the light from the open door.
Alicia ducked behind the desk. She didn’t want her mother to find her in the lab. She didn’t want to spend any time anywhere near her mother. She was afraid of what she might do. After a moment, she relaxed. The light in the lab was off—her new eyes could see perfectly in the moonlight. Her mother couldn’t see in the dark.
She watched her mother rummage in the fridge and thought about how fragile she looked. How hard would Alicia have to hit her to crush her flesh and snap her bones?
She imagined her fist crashing into her mother’s skull, bone crunching beneath her knuckles like bark, and blood oozing like tree sap.
Red was such a pretty color.
Her mother poured herself a glass of milk and vanished back up the stairs.
Alicia found the notes she was looking for. Construct weight after transfer: 45.752 kilograms. The number on the scale. She wasn’t losing her soul.
Then she noticed the previous line. Construct weight before transfer: 45.752 kilograms.
She’d never had a soul. Her father had lied.
Her mother was right. She was a monster.
If her soul was gone, then Alicia could do whatever she wanted. Heaven or hell didn’t matter, right or wrong didn’t matter.
What did she want?
She wanted to plant roses with her mother, but her mother hated her now. It was her father’s fault that she was a monster. He should have let her die.
Alicia felt the anger inside her expanding, ‘til it filled her. She thought she might explode from the pressure, like a balloon. It was all Daddy’s fault.
Daddy had to be punished.
Alicia stared at her father. He was sitting in the living room, reading a book, just like he always did on Saturday afternoons. His life was the same as it had always been. Nothing had changed for him. He probably didn’t even feel guilty for lying to Mommy and cursing Alicia to live as a monster.
Cold fury and hate curled around her heart. She could kill him, right now. She could rip his heart out with her bare hands. But that wouldn’t be enough. If he was dead, he couldn’t suffer.
“Daddy?” Alicia forced sweetness and warmth into her voice. “Could I play in your workshop?”
“Hmmm?” He didn’t glace up from his book. “Sure, honey. Just be careful not to break anything.”
“Oh, I’ll be careful, Daddy. I promise.”
“Mommy.” Alicia stopped her mother at the top of the stairs. “I understand why you hate me now.”
“Oh, honey, I don’t hate you. I love you, just like I always have. This is just a rough transition for me.” Her mother knelt down so their eyes were level. She wrapped her arms around Alicia and hugged her. It was a real hug. Mommy smelled like roses and cinnamon, and Alicia felt something other than anger stirring in her chest.
She didn’t deserve this hug. Tears soaked into Mommy’s pretty pink dress.
Mommy rocked her gently back and forth. “It’s okay, baby. I love you.”
Alicia touched her mother’s cheek. Her flesh was so soft, so warm. So fragile. “You don’t have to lie to me, Mommy. I understand. I’m a monster, and it’s not your fault. You shouldn’t have to suffer because of Daddy’s mistakes.” Alicia pushed her mother as hard as she could. A surprised look flashed across her mother’s face as she flew into the wall.
Alicia heard bones snap as her mother tumbled down the stairs.
Alicia didn’t feel anything when she stared into her mother’s blank, dead eyes. “I love you, Mommy.”
It hadn’t been hard to recreate her father’s experiment. His notes were unorganized, but meticulous. Alicia made sure to make his new body slower and weaker than hers. She couldn’t let him have the upper hand. He wouldn’t be happy with her for letting Mommy go. But Mommy was better off. She’d be with the real Alicia. The real Daddy, too. They’d be happy together, in heaven, just the way things were before she got sick.
Alicia threw the switch, and her father’s consciousness transferred to the new body she’d made for him. His eyes flickered open, and he saw his corpse strapped to the table next to him.
He started screaming.
Now he’d know what it was like. And Alicia wouldn’t be alone anymore.
Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their cat. She has over 120 short fiction credits, and has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the Stoker Award-winning After Death…. She is the editor of Triangulation: Lost Voices and Triangulation: Beneath the Surface. Her short story collection, One Revolution, and her novella, Moving Forward: A Novella of Life After Zombies are available on Amazon.com. Her debut novel, Left Hand Gods, is out now from Hadley Rille Books. Find her online at www.jamielackey.com.
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