“Let's dance in style, let's dance for a while Heaven can wait, we're only watching the skies Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst Are you gonna drop the bomb or not? Let us die young or let us live forever!” - Alphaville - Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter “There's no time for us. There's no place for us. What is this thing that builds our dreams, Yet slips away from us? Who wants to live forever?” - Farrokh “Freddie Mercury” Bulsara
The tired, withered hand taps the glass from inside the hyperbaric chamber, summoning his butler to his side.
The servant presses his ear to the glass chamber. His master's chapped lips cough out.
The servant leans back to see this trillionaire in his last throws of life. He locks eyes with Lukasz Higgins and they stare at each other, unflinching, for half a minute. The servant blinks and sighs. He turns to grab the funeral shroud of turquoise and initiate the mourning procedures he and his team of 200 have practiced every year for the past decade.
But then the face twitches and Higgins's hand pounds the chamber.
“Rose Butter! I want rose butter on my rolls! Dammit!”
The chamber lid opens, releasing the oxygen-depleted air. Higgins springs up with Nosferatu-rigidity and hurls the crusty dinner roll like a hockey puck, knocking the servant over.
“Look alive! I want rose butter! Now!”
The 35 servants split into groups of 5, hoisting him from the chamber, dressing him, feeding him, combing his hair, polishing his Howard-Hughes-finger-and-toenails, all while singing, “Poor Doctor Higgins.”
Higgins had just finished day 47 of his Steve Jobs-style juice cleanse and he hankered for some complex carbs after only drinking coconut milk with bananas, blueberries, strawberries and papaya, with powdered horn of rhinoceros, tiger's blood, turmeric, ginger, fenugreek and durian sprinkled on for good measure.
Primmed, he's wheeled from his private chambers to the corner office of his executive suite. He huffs every day as his team of servants struggle to open up the three-ton Holy Door swiped from the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Just one of his many acquisitions from religions that had fallen out of favor and were forced to sell its most sanctified assets. Higgins taps his feet impetuously for two minutes before the door finally GWOOSHES open.
Higgins is wheeled past the two ten-feet tall Assyrian winged man-bull statues that flank just inside the entrance to his office. 84 Grammies, 136 platinum records and 532 Metropolis Music Awards line the walls.
He's pushed into his desk etched out of blue whale bones and glowers as he demands.
“Where the devil are my slippers?!”
One servant slides the fuzzy slippers on his feet.
Another servant sees the next error and grabs a crystal bowl and scurries it over to him. As she approaches, he pops open his mouth, rolls out his tongue and she drops a chocolate bon-bon on it.
“Very Good.” He mutters as the servants look down and shuffle backward with downcast eyes.
He taps his temple and they vanish from his field of vision.
In this moment of respite, Higgins turns to the cryogenically-frozen head of Walt Disney that bobs in a glass jar on his desk.
“Here it is old friend.” Higgins taps the glass. “I'll finally succeed where you never could. Immortality! I will rise again like a Phoenix and soar from the ashes of your failed empire.”
Higgins's maniacal laugh is cut short as he chokes on the bon-bon. He flails his arms until he can find the propulsion necessary to vomit it into a sapphire spittoon.
The door creaks open for a minute and then Brand-N enters, inadvertently kneeing one of his servants.
“Oouphf!” He hears.
Brand-N steps to his left and elbows another servant.
“Ugh” wails a woman's voice.
Brand-N lunges forward, knocking two bodies to the ground. One smacks into a silver tray as she falls, deafening the room for a moment with a crash.
“Furrr chrissakes!” A third servant bellows.
Brand-N struggles through the maze of maids and approaches the desk, squinting at the gaunt figure seated there.
“Higgins! But I thought you were---”
“Dead? Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Higgins tries a smirk, but then coughs instead. “I'm halfway there. Once you reach a certain level of... decrepitude, you might as well be.”
Brand-N takes a seat and awkwardly adjusts his body.
“So. Um. So you've selected me as your body man? Um. What does that entail?”
“Brand-N. I've tried it all to keep myself young. Whale semen. Babies' blood. Stem cell transplants. Amniotic fluid cocktails. Michael Jackson's hyperbaric chamber. Even splicing my DNA with the DNA of those animals reaching for biological immortality, the rock lobster and the naked mole-rat. But nothing has stopped the ravages of the two forces that tug on me every moment, gravity and time.
“And this is unacceptable. Def Corporation sells youth and vitality. No one wants to see an old turd! A half-melted wax figure. Sure, I still run everything from behind the scenes. Well, after Pickering died in that tragic plastic surgery accident.” Higgins rides a wave of sadness, remembering how his friend and business partner had undergone too many plastic surgeries in one day. His heart was too weak and failed in his sleep. Higgins snaps himself back to the moment at hand.
“Why do you need me?” Brand-N leans in as Higgins smiles.
“I want your body. I need your body. Yours is the perfect specimen and you should be proud that I've chosen to Theil your body. You see, my scientists have discovered the cure for death. All 100 billion neurons in my brain can be scanned using quantum wave technology. Every core component of myself, every memory, every instinct, every thought, every way in which I move my body and intone my voice can be known and replicated. Every little fiber of my essence can be bottled up---”
Higgins pauses with a smile.
“And then poured into you. Using nanotechnology and just a few electrical shocks, I can rewire the makeup of your brain and upload my essence into it.”
“But what happens to me?” Brand-N says, flummoxed.
“Ahh, you will still exist. I'll just lease your body for twenty years. Using the same technology, your essence will be scanned and uploaded. It'll be kept inside a replica of your brain. And you'll be in good company with old Walt here!” Higgins taps the jar as one of Disney's eyelids rolls open.
“And in return, you can have whatever you like. Fortune beyond your wildest dreams! I'll make Brand-N a household name. Men will cower. Women will weep before your virility. Our virility! You'll be elevated to the highest echelons of Boujee life. Every club door will spring open.
“And, in 20 years, I'll move to my next host. You'll be the wunderkind that ruled Def Corporation and a leading patrician of Metropolis. Best of all, you'll only be 45. Still young. Still handsome. You will be richly rewarded and retired from the day-to-day life of running the corporation. And sure, we can set you up with some self-named, self-serving charity.”
“And what do I get in return for sacrificing the prime of my life?” Brand-N leans forward to stare deeply into Higgins's sunken eyes.
“For starters. $2 billion. A penthouse apartment. Your own Virgin Island.” Higgins scans Brand-N. “Hm. I'm think you'd look great on Virgin Gorda, aka Dawn Schwaitzer Island. It's adjacent to Tan Penis Island, but with much larger hills and bushes for maximum privacy. And a $100 million a year pension.”
Higgins pauses as Brand-N thinks. He feels his body and remembers that sweet symbiosis he's had with it. But then he stings remembering the rejection from the highest of Haughtie life. Higgins reads his hesitation and antes up.
“Ok, $3 billion and a 3,000-foot yacht. You'll be the envy of all!” Higgins claws the table.
“But what if you injure my body?” Brand-N crosses his arms.
“Don't worry! I'll take great care of it. No hard sports. No sugars. Fat flushes every third month. And an enema a day to keep the doctor away. I'll even exercise it daily. And if there are any accidents, I'll quintuple the cost for any loss of limb and promise a full recovery. It's all in the contract! I promise you!”
Higgins slides a binder to Brand-N and flips it open to page 217, which has an actuarial cost analysis for each body part: ear, finger, toe, leg below the knew, leg above the knee, right testicle, left testicle, shoulder, elbow, penis. Brand-N starts to scan the page but looks up.
“But why do you want a human body? Why not a robot?”
“I am human, just like you.” Higgins tries to smile but breaks into a coughing fit. “I rejoice in the joys of the flesh. That sublime rhapsody of body and mind with fluid movements that no cold robot could ever replicate.”
“And what if I say no?”
“You can't. You have no other choice. We own you! Body and soul.” Higgins pounds the table and then pauses to calm himself down. “You're a member of this company city-state. In an instant, I can have your passport confiscated and have you arrested. I'll throw you into the dungeons for crimes against the corporation where you can wallow until your teeth rot and your facial fillers drop. Or I can have you transferred to a Farm and stud you out to pay back your debt to us. Which currently stands at... $68,010,348.
“Now, you are a smart man. You know that this is the offer of a lifetime. If you do not accept, you'll be the most ungrateful and wicked boy and the angels will weep for you. But... if you do, a life of luxury will be yours once my 20-year lease expires.”
Brand-N looks out the window at Metropolis bustling below. This could be his city! He could finally have the respect and adoration his narcissism knew he deserved.
“So, do we have a deal?” Higgins reaches out his hand.
“Take my body!” The men shake hands. “Take on me... And I guess I'll see you in twenty years...”
Higgins claps his hands and opens his mouth as an invisible Grip drops another bon-bon in his mouth.
* * *
The procedure took only 4-hours as both bodies lie side-by-side, lightly connected by a few USB cords and a quantum computer. Each part and movement of their brains is scanned and replicated down to the most minute, subatomic scale. The brain of Brand-N is drained to create a clean slate and a replica of his sentience is uploaded into the super computer. His brain is rewired with the movements and memories of Higgins, while Higgins's real brain remained in its decaying body.
After the mind exchange, Higgins stands up in the body of Brand-N. The crowd of doctors and servants applause and cheer his name.
“Congratulations Lukasz Higgins! You did it!”
“Please, call me Brand-N now. Brand-N Higgins.” The new Brand-N looks down at the old shell he once inhabited. He winces for a moment, wondering if he killed his real self and if he's just cloned copy... A copy so perfect even he can't tell the difference.
He waves away these existential worries as he commands the Grips to grab his old shell.
“Entomb this in the company mausoleum!”
Brand-N jumps up and twirls around. He shimmies and dances through the operating room.
“Now! Time to take this body for a test drive!”