The Problem with Immortality, Part 5: Letting Go

Posted: August 14, 2013 by writingsprint in Science fiction, The Problem with Immortality
Tags: , , , , , ,

50% happy held pretty steady through the end of the first year. Trying to be human made me feel sadder. I kept running into the ways that I wasn’t. Spontaneity. Vices. Chaos. Flaws. Change. My body was the product of the best efforts of 300 engineers and scientists, the best value bidder we’d selected, standing on the shoulders of two hundred years of research. A human body was built by eight million years of natural selection, and that was if you only went as far back as the apes. Naturally, there were things we’d missed.

I was happiest in my work. Tweaking the programs and making them run better made me feel better. It felt good to add shades of feeling that we had missed the first time around. I read case studies on people with brain injuries who had lost touch certain emotions, to understand psychologically what had happened to me. Unlike a human, understanding didn’t bring comfort. Information came in. Information was processed. There was no learning curve, no ache of discovery. I knew something or I didn’t. I wrote a new program so that I would feel the pleasure of discovery.

A year to the day after my transplant, I made the decision to let go.

When I told Emmy, her chin trembled. I rubbed her back to comfort her. Most people had to fight not to recoil from my mechanical touch. Emmy was used to it. “Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yeah. It’s been a good experiment, but I don’t want to live like this. It isn’t living.”

“You… um… overrode the self-preservation programming.”

“I have administrative privileges.”

“Jesus Christ,” Emmy choked.

I hugged her. “And that is exactly what I’m doing it. I miss that. I miss the tears and the rages and all the weird stuff. I miss bad habits like Dr. Isaacs’ smoking. Someone had a cold last week. I wanted to sit next to them and write an infection simulation.”

“You think you’ll find that in heaven?”

“Yeah. That’s one thing I figured out. Machines don’t have heavens. People do.”

“I get that.”

“Will you help me?”

She nodded. “What do you need me to do?”

I handed her a note. “Read this to me. It’s a code. It’ll launch a program that wipes my hard drive.”

“Why don’t you let Andrews and Isaacs do that?”

“I don’t trust them. I think some of them want to make copies of my brain to run experiments.”

Emmy grimaced. “You think they would?”

“I would.”

“Fine, fine. I don’t want to hear any more. I’ll do it.”

“Okay.” Normally I would have taken a nervous breath. “Read it. Goodbye, Em.”

“Love you, Johnny.” Emmy unfolded the note. “’Remember me and smile, for it’s better to forget than remember me and cry.’” She looked up. “Doctor Seuss,” she said.

The cyborg moved from Johnny’s standing posture to a default, standing-straight posture. The motors whined to a halt. Its eyelids shut. Its mouth closed. The cooling system shut down last, and the breath left its body.


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