Face reconstruction 12%

I slowly opened my eyes. It took some time for my mind to identify the blank, blueish-gray surface I was seeing as my ceiling. It took even longer for me to question why I was looking at it, or why I hadn’t tried getting up. A strange numbness permeated through me, like a halfway purgatory between the vivid presence of the senses and the dull emptiness of anesthesia. It wasn’t completely unpleasant, though, and I eventually gathered enough willpower to lift myself up and sit on the edge of my bed.

I realized that I was only seeing through a single eye, and I couldn’t even tell that it was my left eye until I waved my hand in front of it. Unlike the rest of my body, my face felt completely empty, devoid of any feeling. I wasn’t sure it was even still there.

That’s right, it probably wasn’t. I checked my implant; it was January 14th. Earlier that day I had gone to the reconstructionist, and must’ve fallen asleep after getting home. The techno-medic had said that I may lose feeling for a few days, and that I’d need more rest than normal. The memory of the procedure itself was surprisingly hazy—besides the sterile, geometrically perfect angles of the booth and the pitch-black procedure-port, I couldn’t remember a thing.

My implant began to beep, and I felt a sudden wave of fatigue wash over me. Without much resistance, I flopped back into bed and closed my eye.

Face reconstruction 27%

I had more energy the next morning, and remembered that I had some medication to take. Most of the dishes were stacked haphazardly in the sink and I didn’t feel like washing them, so I decided to use a clean mug as a makeshift bowl. I fumbled with the rehab packet that the techno-med had supplied, poured the powder into the mug, then added some water before mixing it into a thick paste.

I walked back to my bed, mug in hand. As I moved through the hallway past the closed powder room, a sense of nervous unease filled me, and I quickened my pace. That room had the only mirror left in the house; I had taken down the rest, including the one in my other bathroom. A few online celebrities had recently reconstructed, and they said that it’s best to avoid looking into a mirror until the reconstruction is complete.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel curious about what was happening or how it was turning out. Maybe that was why I had left the mirror in the powder room. But I held myself back from going inside.

With difficulty, I swallowed the chunky paste and lay in bed, staring absently at the space in front of me. The numbness was largely gone, everywhere except my face. Periodically, I’d feel the tingling sensation of the microbots scurrying around, pushing, tugging, rebuilding, until they’d auto-inject the anesthetic and bring me back to that dull emptiness.

Face reconstruction 54%

I stared at the shifting hues of my console display, the angry little character sluggishly reacting to my controller inputs. This was the new Stoic Samurai game that had just come out a few weeks ago. The gameplay wasn’t particularly fun, and the controls weren’t very satisfying, but it had a lot of padded content which was especially good for me now. I hadn’t left the house in five days, and having something to pass the time was useful. Slash, jump, kick.

By now, I could see from my other eye again, although the angle felt a little wrong. My implant told me to keep it closed, so I did, even if that made playing the game harder. Slash, slash, roll, slash. I had gotten used to it quickly enough, anyway. Backstep, slash.

My friends had messaged me a few times already, wanting to get together, but I told them I wasn’t feeling well. Roll, heal, roll. It wasn’t a complete lie, either. But I wasn’t ready to see them yet. Actually, I hadn’t even told them about my reconstruction; I wanted to surprise them. It would result in some downtime, and it wasn’t cheap, but after it was done I’d be different—better. I could already see their reactions.

Slash, slash, get hit, die. I sighed, tossing the controller aside as my character crumpled. Just then, my implant pinged me, asking for an eye adjustment. The microbots could only do so much themselves, so sometimes I had to hold something in place while they built around it. At least the timing was good. I lay down and pushed my right eye around until my implant made a satisfied chirp. As the microbots went to work, I couldn’t help but imagine what I looked like right now, and how I’d look afterwards. Each time I had to manually adjust something, I became more nervous.

Face reconstruction 71%

After a couple more days, my implant stopped pestering me for manual adjustments. My vision was almost completely back to normal—in fact, it felt like my right eye could see even clearer than before—but the rest of my face was still numb from the continuous anesthetic.

I sat in my kitchen, scrolling through the reconstruction vis on my implant, each step in the process described and animated with cartoony shapes and vibrant colors. I had gotten stuck on a gimmick boss and stopped playing the game, but it had given me some time to do research on reconstruction. I had looked through possible microbot errors, issues with manual adjustments, and sanitation problems. It was all stuff that the techno-med had already mentioned, but it still felt productive for me to go through it again.

As I scrolled, I got a popup about a low balance in my account. I remembered that rent was due in two weeks, and that I wouldn’t get my next paycheck until two weeks after that. Most of my last payback, and all of my savings, had gone into the reconstruction. But I had a work-related insurance claim that was supposed to come sometime next week, which would be enough to last the month. Things would be fine.

I kept scrolling.

Face reconstruction 93%

I lay in bed, my head throbbing despite the anesthetic. For the past few hours I couldn’t make myself do anything besides stare at the reconstruction percentage on my implant. Watching the number flicker, it almost felt like I was holding my breath. 93. 93. 93. 94.

Close. I got up and stretched, then went to the kitchen, eyeing the powder room as I went by. The last of the microbots would be done soon, and the final layer would be finished. I just had to wait a bit longer for my reveal. I grabbed a packet of juice to sip on—cranberry—and sat to stare at my implant.

95. 96. 97. 98. Hours had gone by, and day had turned to dusk. I tapped my foot, shifted in my seat. The green progress indicator was practically full. I imagined myself rushing to the powder room once it was all done. Any moment now, the wait would be over.

99. I couldn’t wait.

I began walking to the powder room. My stride was quick and even, and with every step I could feel my heart thump louder in my chest. I opened the door, went in, and the lights came on automatically.

The microbots crawled precisely, geometrically over the surface of my face, adjusting the green weave lines of the substrate in preparation for the final pass. In one go, they scanned across the contours, injecting skin pigment and texture and hiding the weave beneath. In no time at all, they had replaced the artificial weave mask with a smooth skin that looked almost like the real thing.

The surface was flawless, the eyes glistened, and the shape was like a celebrity’s. My implant pinged joyously as the microbots shut down and fell to the ground. I looked at the sculpted features of my face, touched my cheek, and felt a single tear stream down from the artificial eye. It was beautiful, it was perfect.

It was no longer me.

Face reconstruction 100%