Anne Quince was never very pretty, but people who didn’t know her before she got hit by a truck assume she was beautiful, because it’s a charitable thing to assume. To be fair, her hair is golden and flawless, but it’s not actually hair. It’s a wig. Hair doesn’t grow on the left side of her head anymore. Anne is thirty-three years old, but the crash has made her age almost impossible to guess. Her left side is twisted. Her left ear is nothing but a hole in her head. Her fingers zig-zag and jostle each other when she tries to hold a pen, and her shin curves inwards at the bottom. But some of the cells in her right side became paralyzed in the crash, and there are places on her face – around her eye, especially – that look the same as they did when she was twenty-six.
Anne works in a bakery, arriving at four in the morning to make the day’s bread from scratch. It’s a job where she can make an endless supply of small, perfect things, and where she doesn’t have to deal with people. She likes people well enough, but she gets tired of strangers looking at everything in the room but her. She wears fringed leather pants and one of those reflective jackets construction workers wear. Sometimes she wears a low cut, neon orange blouse with the word “FUCK” on it in huge black letters. She made the shirt herself. But hardly anyone ever starts a conversation with her. Everyone holds the elevator for her, but when she gets inside, the silence is so intense it makes her ears pop.
Anne only has a couple of friends she really keeps in touch with, one of whom works at the bakery and one of whom she roomed with in college. She goes to parties every so often, and she gets laid about as much as anyone else, but not with any consistency. She has a theory that guys want to see what it’s like to get a cripple in the sack, and then can’t live with themselves once they realize that was what they were after. She laughs about it. Her pelvis is so twisted up that sex is pretty painful anyway.
Anne has an ulterior motive for working at the bakery. She’s saving up money. She lives in a shitty apartment that used to be an opium den, in a neighborhood two steps ahead of gentrification. Her ex-roommate works in a thrift store and hooks her up with whatever clothes she needs. She takes home dough from the bakery and eats mostly bread and chili. Anne is saving up to be a cyborg.
Piece by piece, Anne is rebuilding her body. The wig was the first step, a symbolic declaration of intention. Next came a metal bracket at the base of her spine. The latest addition is a prosthetic foot, replacing the worthless splinters she used to walk on. She’s painted flames on it, and it’s fitted so that it can be attached to a prosthetic leg when she gets the money. She wants to hollow out her prosthetic leg and smuggle heroin in it, or put thigh-powered blowgun in it and become an assassin. She knows that’s never going to happen, of course. But she also knows that in a few decades, people are going to be sawing off perfectly healthy arms and legs to be what she’s becoming.