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The Small Shop of Me

Renan Bernardo is a science fiction and fantasy writer from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His fiction appeared--or is forthcoming--in Apex Magazine, Dark Matter Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, Translunar Travelers Lounge, Solarpunk Magazine, The Dread Machine, Simultaneous Times, and others. He was one of those selected for the Imagine 2200 climate fiction contest with his story "When It's Time to Harvest". In Brazil, he was a finalist for the 2020 Odisseia Award and the 2020 Argos Award, two of the most important Brazilian SFF awards. He also published multiple stories in Portuguese and other languages.

He can be found at Twitter (@RenanBernardo) and his website: renanbernardo.com.

Olaf sold his left eye. He unplugged it from its socket and laid it over the counter. It fizzled for a second, staring at the buyer with a dead gleam.
The buyer, a blind man in his eighties, scanned his thumb on the pay-reader and respectfully bowed his head. Olaf dropped the eye into his hand like a coin. The buyer plugged it and left the shop with a smile, stick under the arm.
The shopkeepers buzz receded and the stench of compacted trash filled the air. Time to close the shop and go to the drugstore.
"I want the usual stuff," Olaf told Brenno, the pharmacist, pressing his thumb on the pay-reader.
"What happened with the eye, Olaf?" They'd been neighbors, shared beers and bed, but Olaf got distanced from him as he did from most of his friends since his brother got sick.
"Business diversification."
"You should take care." Brenno said, giving him the packed serum, breathing off cigar and unresolved issues. He didn't tell Brenno his shop was empty with nothing else to sell but himself.
Olaf grabbed the pack and left for the hospital. Which is brighter than the shops alleyway but, instead of noodles and fries, it smells of antiseptic farewells.
He entered his brother's bedroom, smiling and leaving the serum over the bedside table, where a nurse had left a lonely, withering sunflower.
"You sold your eye." Alon accused him, eyes brimming with tears, arms, legs, and face paralyzed from severe bio-grafting refusal. "You shouldn't do that."
Olaf didn't say anything, but, yes, he should.
Olaf sold his left arm. It was for a boy who wanted a third one.
"It's for volleyball," the kid told him as he paid for it.
Olaf uncoupled the arm and gaped at his family's tattoo, cartooned versions of him, Alon, and their dead fathers. He tattooed it to honor his fathers months before the world started grafting everyone to contain the Fleshly Plague.
"Any problem, sir?" the boy asked.
Olaf shook his memories away. It should've been his right arm but he was right-handed.
"Hope you like tattoos, boy."
It was Buying Friday Fest. Olaf sold his right foot, his left kidney, and his ears. He sold four of his ribs. Even his heart, which he replaced with clockworks supposed to function as his cardiovascular system.
The last customer of the day was a short woman with golden-plated skin. Widow, dead children, dark fleshly circles around tiring mirroring eyes. She smelled of the poppies and peonies. He'd have preferred sunflower, but that was not the case. To her, he sold his shop. His family's business, his fathers' pride, his heritage, all he had left.
Olaf had never made so much money in a single day.
"I can pay for your medicine and the hospital room for one year," Olaf told Alon, exhaling rust and relief, hobbling into his brother's bedroom. "It should be enough."
But it wasn't. And Olaf didn't have anything else to sell but the legs he used to visit Alon, the eye to see if he was buying the correct serum, and the arm to carry the medicine.
"What will you do, Olaf? You sold everything for me and now you'll see me dying, anyway."
No, he wouldn't.
Olaf met the golden-skinned lady at her shop, her eyes sulking with loneliness and longing. The place had been renovated with lamps, statuettes, and furniture on sale. They all glinted off colors he'd never achieved himself.
He placed the packed medicine on the counter and pushed it toward her, along with a luggage containing all his brother's belongings. She pressed her gilded thumb on Olaf's pay-drive.
He sold her a friend.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, June 29th, 2022


Author Comments

This is a Cyberpunk piece that explores the profitability of who we are. We see it happening in the real world as anything (from your time to your attention and your appearance) can become a commodity. In Brazil, a few years ago, we had some prominent public figures discussing whether turning your own organs into assets would be a good thing. In the futuristic world of the story, bodies have modular parts and they can be sold. But what does it mean for the people who have nothing more to lose? What does it mean to literally exchange your body for something else, piece by piece? The story is also about how we give ourselves to those we love, and how much is enough. Is there a limit for love? Can we fully compromise ourselves in order to save someone?

- Renan Bernardo
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