Inspired by Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man “Headlife” by Margaret Atwood is one of many fantastic short stories from Shadow Show. This story is great because you know exactly what is going to happen but you don’t know how, so the anticipation grows with each paragraph.
Quentin is the creator and owner of Hither! Ltd., a company that grows cells and organs, and does everything from nose replacements to full-body placements. Quentin is an angry old man, competitive and insecure in his business and personal life. He is unwilling to show weakness, which has become harder to do as he ages and becomes less of a threat to his many enemies. He fears falling behind in the business world, and a new body that will be “melded to his head” (in other words a full body replacement) is of course the answer to his problems.
Greed, vanity and competition with his many enemies drives his decision to change his life, to reverse the aging of his body with a scientific invention of his own making. Yet, he is loathed by all of his employees most of whom he personally attacks and ridicules on a daily basis. So why would he put his life in their hands, the reader cries! But it’s too late. He goes under the anesthesia administered by the employee he hates the most, and reawakens weeks later to see the same face unchanged except for the sinister smile slowly spreading across it as Quentin realizes he is now in a reality worst than any nightmare he could have ever imagined.
On an author note, Margaret Atwood recently gave her thoughts to NPR as to the future of the dystopian novel, including her initial responses to The Handmaiden’s Tale when it came out thirty years ago, and how surprised she is by its newfound relevancy to which she asks, who knew? Same.