I’m not sure what terrifies me more: a possible eternity on The PreServer cycling through my life, or an assured eternity in death. Either way, alone.
“You really wouldn’t do it?” I asked Avi one night as I lay in bed, studying our smooth, black ceiling. Beside me, he read a paperback novel by the glow of his mini-drone light. He placed it down, seriousness lining his face.
“Not even if it meant we got to be together in the afterlife?”
“We wouldn’t be together, we’d just be trapped in our own respective memories.”
“You don’t know that.” I propped myself up on my elbow. “You don’t know what developments might happen while we’re on The PreServer.”
Avi glanced at me with something like pity.
I think of Avi’s tattoo. Do not upload. I never imagined that I might, ultimately, have no choice about whether I faced an infinity on The PreServer without him.
All I want is for them to do whatever it takes to keep my body alive. My heart screams this desire with each pump. Pumps that will soon deposit tiny bots throughout my body to record everything they can about me before I die.
An e-medic locks a port into my spine. Needles prick the thin skin of my scalp and chest. Soon, an AmaCo technician will click a button to elongate those needles, cleaving through flesh and bone. One of the e-medics fumbles as they insert one into the place where the tattoo would have been. They’re running out of time; so am I.
A warm, shaking hand touches me. I realize it must be the technician.
No. I need to tell him no. If they cannot save me, let me die. I fight to keep my eyes open.
The tech leans close to my ear. His sweet breath, humid and alive, carries the words, “Shh, you’ll be OK soon.”
Tim locked in the syringes. He longed to give her the sedative that would slip her into unconsciousness, the painkillers so she wouldn’t even feel the pinch of a needle. He found beauty in that ritual. But he couldn’t risk losing her. Aside from their death and deliverance onto The PreServer, he didn’t deal directly with AmaCo’s customers. Yet he knew that, when technicians failed to upload in time, their AI client-service system processed complaints from family members. Tearful calls, threats to sue.
Nodding to the e-medics, he began his countdown. That’s when he felt Natalie Lopes’ fingers tighten on his sleeve.
I hear him: “5 … 4 … ” I’m not certain I can move, but I will myself to grasp his sleeve. The edge of the fabric feels soft in my fingers. It takes everything I have to tug it. My last chance.
I feel him hesitate. My deliverance. Then, gently, he pries my fingers back and takes my hand. Dread sinks in. He resumes his count, “3 … 2 … 1.”
Pain slices through me as the needles plunge into my body.
My teeth ache and chatter. My limbs shake. Something acidic and sharp churns in the back of my throat, pickling my tongue.
I can’t feel the individual nanobots deploy, but I feel something else. Searing liquid. Like a million fire ants eating me from the inside.
Make it stop.
The nanobots read me. My DNA. My memories.
My inhales turn to pinching gasps.
I’m going to be alone. For eternity.
This bodily hell is absolute.
Then darkness, whole and complete.
Tim moved on. In the days that followed, he delivered other customers to The PreServer. But something about Natalie’s touch stayed with him. He thought, perhaps, he should look at her Remembrances. For quality control purposes.