Big Arm by Tom Burd - title banner

By Tom Burd
27th June 2015

Frank isn't quite used to his new robot body... and now his boss wants a chat.

“How’s it going Frank?” my boss asked.

He stood in my cubicle door, leaning his heavy metal arm on the weak siding. He knew that the weight made a huge dent in the edges, and it took me a good half hour of fiddling until it was back to the right shape. I think he got some kind of weird, perverse pleasure out of knowing that I would have to rush my work just to try and get everything back in order. I couldn’t concentrate when things were out of place. I had a very careful balance around me, and when my boss disturbed it I just… I lost my place.

It took me longer to realise that I’d been staring at my boss’ arm for a lot longer than was polite. He was drinking his coffee still, staring at me, waiting me to stop playing possum. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to talk yet. He took another long drink of coffee, my fingers twitched, a nervous motion programmed in to be always working when the boss was around. The key clicked. Damn.

“It’s… going alright,” I answered, the speaker crackling slightly with nerves. I covered my chin with one hand, a nervous habit I developed from when I was still entirely flesh. The metal felt warm under my fingers. At least I hadn’t lost my warmth, just most of the skin.

“Operation went smooth I see. No scars. Still got all of that charm.” My boss jogged my elbow. I twitched in response, trying to ignore the slight alarm from being touched without warning. I don’t even know if he knew how much I hated it when he did that.

“Yeah they… they’ve got good surgeons…” I muttered, looking between my boss and the computer screen. I hadn’t done any work in the last twenty minutes. Most of that time had been spent staring at my hands, twitching the little motors and trying to remember what it was like to have bones.

Last month I had donated my body to science. Most of it at least. I’d been short on rent, after having a rather bad attack of cancer, my doctor had just… well… suggested it. I had to go in every third week for a check up and general maintenance, but I suppose things were better now.

The majority of my organs were gone, hands, feet, other… things. Science had uses for them I’m sure. Occasionally I got little postcards sent over telling me about what they’d been doing recently. My liver had apparently been used in a test batch for radiation medication to see how effective it was on sensitive organs; I got a little paycheck and a picture of my own liver. I’m still not sure how to feel about all of this, and the letter… It was sitting under my fruit bowl at home. It was going to stay there until I could decide what to do with it.

“Yeah, my cousin got this done like, a few years ago,” he continued, finally lifting his arm off the siding. There was a huge dent there. His metal arm was sleek and powerful looking, but it was heavy as hell. Mine were designed to be light and flexible; I mean you had to live with it. That and the lighter version was less expensive, so I got more money from the body donation.

“She said you get used to it. You know. In time,” he said, not looking at me, as he spoke. He swirled the coffee with his metal hand, showing how great he was at controlling his own mechanical ‘upgrade’ as he put it. Making a show of not spilling a single drop of his coffee as he swirled it.

“So I was just wondering if you’re… you know… fully in control?” he asked, peeking at me sideways now. It wasn’t as if he was being very subtle about all of this anyway. They’d been riding my tail for quite some time, looking for a reason to get rid of me. Ever since my extended holiday to get all my organs ripped out they had been stripping away my responsibilities. Now they were looking for a legitimate reason to get rid of me.

“I’m fine sir,” I replied, concentrating on the computer screen. I pressed a few more buttons. It didn’t really do anything, I’d have to fix what I just did in a few moments, but I wanted to at least make it seem like I’m busy. “If I start having trouble I’ll be sure to tell you,” I said with a little nod.

“Good to hear,” he said with a little smile, eyes running over my skinny metal frame. He watched me for a moment longer than was comfortable before slipping away to go bother someone else.

I let out a little mechanical sigh, though it was only noise at this point. There were no lungs left any more. It wouldn’t be too bad. They’d get rid of me eventually, but it wouldn’t be too bad. Getting rid of my body meant I didn’t really need much stuff like food… or drink… or air… so I could survive on very little money. Maybe I wouldn’t even need to work in the future, just exist. So little needed to live, the donation money could get me through. Maybe. My fingers rested on the keys of the age old computer, unfocused. I couldn’t help but wonder where my future was going now I’d sold the majority of my body.

Winner of the 2015 Flash Fiction Competition, as part of National Flash Fiction Day 2015. Find out more about National Flash Fiction Day at

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