In A Wide Sky, Hidden
by William Ledbetter
Warm liquid gurgled away and the kettle field winked off, leaving me naked, wet, and trembling in the soup kitchen’s receiving chamber. My traveling companion, Roger, waited with clothes. Humanoid in shape but impossibly thin, his eight-foot-tall metallic figure moved with an almost liquid grace as he stooped to help me into the robe. My new skin felt raw against the thick fabric, but, like the chills, was caused by the transfer and only temporary.
“Is she here?” I said while bending down to pull on a pair of quilted boots.
“No obvious signs,” Roger said and handed me a glass of bourbon.
I took a long sip and moaned as its burn saturated me from the inside out.
“Thank you,” I muttered.
His bulbous head nodded a slight acknowledgement. “You should really drink something else upon reconstitution,” he said. “Tea, perhaps. That really doesn’t help.”
“No obvious signs of her? What does that mean?” I said.
“Skimmer forty-eight found something interesting. I’ll be able to tell you more when its full report arrives in about five minutes.”
I looked up at his smooth, featureless face hovering two feet above mine. Even after nearly eighty years of association and friendship, my human hindbrain still expected facial expressions when I looked at him. Finally, when he offered no further information, I shrugged and took another sip.
It wasn’t real bourbon, only a molecule-by-molecule reconstruction from local materials, but unlike a human mind instantaneously transferred into a soup-kitchen body via a quantum link, no method could reinstall the soul into the body of bourbon. In other words, I had tasted real aged Kentucky bourbon on Earth and flattered myself by thinking I could tell the difference.