Story — Dreamscape Chapter 16

Andrew sunk into his couch, bowl of cereal in hand as he picked up the remote with the other and turned the television on. This had become a daily routine after several months in his new apartment: morning cereal and news before heading off to take classes for his teaching credential. Halfway into his last semester, he had grown accustomed to the general cycle of food, school, food, and sleep.
Today, however, was different. When he turned the TV on to the news, he was stunned when he recognized the names on the bottom headline: ‘Dr. Stone Saves Girl’.
“…seven year old Amelia Temple was caught in a house fire two weeks ago and suffered several third degree burns all over her body,” the news anchor was saying, her tone fluctuating up and down in a practiced manner. “However thanks to a local surgeon and some new technology it seems that everything was able to turn out okay.”
The video cut from the news anchor to a little girl standing next to a woman who was kneeling down to her, holding a microphone to her. The skin on one side of the girl’s face was a slightly different color from that of the rest of her body, but it didn’t seem to have any debilitating effects. “I feel really good,” she said with a smile.
The reported held the microphone to herself, glancing at the camera with a grin to match Amelia’s. “Does it make you happy that your life can go back to normal now?”
“Yeah,” the girl replied. “My dad said that as soon as I go back home, we’re going to get some ice cream! He never lets us get ice cream.”
“And the best part is,” the reporter said, half to the camera and half to the girl, “now, after the surgery, you get to be whoever you want again!”
The girl had a twinkle in her eye. Looking directly at the camera, she grinned and said “I’m gonna be an actor!”
After the video faded out, Andrew grew conscious of just how infectious the little girl’s smile was, even while chewing. The smile was short lived, though, because when the camera faded back in, it was addressed to a stocky man in a suit, with a microphone held up to his face. Somebody that didn’t know him would have trouble deciding whether the man hadn’t shaved in a few weeks or his facial hair simply didn’t grow very far. Because of the facial hair, it took Andrew a moment to recognize him as Dr. Douglas Stone, one of his old friends.
“The simplest way to explain this new technique,” Douglas said in his gruff voice, “is that the new skin targets and replicates the dna of the skin cells around it. It doesn’t leave a scar because it actually is the skin around it. It just takes about a week for it to fully integrate the change.”
The microphone pulled away. Off camera, somebody said, “Do you think this is the future for modern surgery?”
“It’s more complicated than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but it’s safe to say this technology could theoretically be brought into broader applications. After more study has been done, it’s been theorized that this could be a way to force one’s body to replicate cells, even after the degeneration process.”
“With this new technology people have been calling you ‘Mr. Neverland’. What do you say to that?”
Douglas shook his head. “It’s way too soon to tell what this new technology is really capable of. I’d hold off on the nicknames for a while yet.”
The video faded back to the news anchor as she wrapped up the story, but having finished his cereal he turned the TV off. He leaned over the end table near the couch and traded an empty bowl for his laptop. Opening it up, he checked his e-mail.
Aside from the usual spam that managed to sneak its way past the filter and the insignificant e-mails he got from websites he frequented, his unread mail still blinked with a red ‘one’ off and on.
He scrolled down to the one he had pointedly ignored. The e-mail had been sent days ago, but he had yet to open it. ‘Douglas Stone’ the bold line read. The subject read ‘Working on a new project. Want in?’
The subject line had told him all he needed to know. Douglas played this game often, trying to invent new ways to change the world. When one project crashed and burned or, occasionally, succeeded, he would simply step back and pick up something new. Douglas didn’t care about the projects, he cared about the money it would get him. He had probably already forgotten that little girl’s name already, his mind working frantically to pick up something new. That was what he hated so much about Douglas. It was largely why he left.
And yet he had truly helped Amelia Temple. Ulterior motives or not, that girl’s life had been changed for the better. With Andrew’s support, he could probably help exponentially more people with this new project.
Suddenly, he snapped his laptop shut. He had thought he had escaped the moral dilemma by leaving Douglas behind and helping people on his own. Now the same arguments were coming back. Had he made the right choice in leaving? Would he help more people on his own or helping Douglas? Was it morally right to help him when his motives were corrupt?
Glancing across the room to the clock, he noticed with a start that he was about to be late for class. He had spent the last few minutes on his laptop instead of getting ready, and remembered that his clean pair of jeans were still in the washing machine, and he probably couldn’t get away with wearing the same old ones again.
With a wave of panic, Andrew put his internal life-style considerations on hold while he scrambled to dry his pants as quickly as possible.

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