I shook with anticipation as the airlock opened and I, suitless, pushed out of the station into the void. The air held in loose orbit around the station let me at least breathe weakly here, and I took as much as I could into my lungs as the airlock closed behind me, sealing my fate.
I floated slowly through the cloud of air, the station getting further away behind me with every second. Ahead the storm pulsed with light, and I could faintly hear through the thinning air a rumbling & groaning sound, the sound of my path, the sound of my death, the godhead beckoning me onwards.
As the lights came from ahead to become around me, to throb near and far in time with my heartbeat, I saw coalescing in front of me that which I had come to see; he who was the beginning of all, she who was the end, xe who knew of things that had been and ze who knew of things to come. They stretched out themselves to welcome me.
“I am blessed. Another child comes to me. What body have you brought me?”
I opened my mouth to speak, and the air around me thickened in support, filling my lungs all the better to speak.
“I have brought you myself, this first body of mine, so that you may understand it better than I do.”
Xe cradled me in xyr arms as I spoke, and as my words ran out xe filled the air with xyr own.
“One so young! You seek to be rid of your body after so little time. Tell me, what is your grievance with it?”
I felt them caress me, explore my physicality in space as I floated helpless. Before I could answer, he said to me, “Do you not like this body of mine?”
“I do not,” I replied, feeling my heart pulse and cry in my chest. “I do not like this body,” I repeated, and felt laughter in my ears. The air morphed and swirled, and in front me it formed into a mirror image of myself. Ze spoke.
“You do not know what bodies lie in your future,” ze said, “How can you know how this one compares?”
“I know what is wrong, but not what is right,” I replied, watching my mouth move in time to my words. I faced myself and them and our words echoed around.
“Your words are those of someone older,” she said. “Someone I will know. Do you speak another’s opinion or your own?”
“I speak my own,” I said, “I speak for the words in my heart that will speak through the voices I may have.”
My mirror image dissolved into gas again, and the lights started to fade. As my vision became fainter and fainted, I felt my heartrate speed up again. I had not been warned of the darkness.
“You have learned the ritual well, child,” xe said, “and you perform well for your first time,” ze said. She plunged into my chest and I felt the endings of every nerve light on fire, every bolt of feeling and pain, the overload of my physical body as it tried to process every experience. I gasped as my lungs unmade themselves, and my gasp gave way to a thought with no action behind it. I tried to flail and defend myself but my motions became a thought with no action behind it. I tried to shout and to scream, but though my voice rang in my mind it could not move to ring out of it. As she tore me apart, and broke me down, and stripped from my mind the confines of a form and a body, I tried in that moment to stop and back out. I had been warned about that.
“The impulse to protect yourself is strong,” he said. “Your struggling is admirable, if needless.”
“In time you will learn to restrain yourself,” she said. “The next body you have will give itself up more readily.”
“You know what you do not want for yourself,” xe said. “This has not been a waste of the elements, but a positive.”
“You will know what you want in time,” ze said. “I will help you die each time it takes.”
The technicians absorbed my thoughts from the storm, downloading the energy into their computer banks. As I retrieved my consciousness, confined within silicon instead, I started to dwell on my next form.
“Take all the time you like,” they said, “the second body can be hard to choose.”
“I know what I want already,” I said. “I have known the body I wanted for some time now.”
They remade me in time, growing my flesh as one would grow a plant, farming it and nurturing it until it was ready to crop from the field. Accustomed to my digital home for the weeks, it was unpleasant to return, but exciting. Adapting my senses from digital to analogue was difficult at first.
“Can you feel the air on your skin?”
I answered, that I could feel that before as the computer, its atmospheric sensors measuring the constituent gaseous parts.
“Can you see the room in front of you?”
I answered, that I could see that before as the computer, its cameras recording every angle of the station.
“Can you feel the sense of your body?”
There is was. I could now experience the proprioception I’d wanted; the memory of time before came back, of feeling my body from the inside, from the mind, as a passenger in a vessel I’d not chosen. Now, I’d picked my form, and I stretched out my hand before me. The fingertips were as I’d desired, the knuckles as I’d designed, the forearm shaped as I wanted, and leading to the wholeness I would wear for my next body’s life.