Eric W Jepson
originally published 2006 in Quantum Muse
It’s difficult to adjust to being dead. Even spending your whole life paying into a memory account and carefully selecting what from the past to preserve, realizing you’ve finally been transferred into a machine is still a difficult adjustment. It’s difficult, I suppose, because it doesn’t really feel much different. For what must’ve been several weeks, I thought I was just relaxing with my eyes shut. Thinking about stuff.
Realizing I was dead came as quite a shock.
I hadn’t done an update in Isis for a couple months, so nothing was selected from the end of my life. My funeral arrangements included an upload of the service into my memory, and remembering it helped give me some closure, but annoyingly, no one who spoke mentioned how I had died.
What struck me as most curious about death, after I got to thinking about it, was how complete I felt. I knew I hadn’t selected my whole life for preservation—who can afford it?—but I didn’t feel like my past was incomplete or full of holes or anything. There were plenty of memories to dwell on. I’m glad I followed the bank’s advice and kept some bad memories as well—it really helped. I felt like a whole person.
Apart from discovering I was dead, my first postmortem surprise was the appearance of a nonce memory. At first I thought I was infected and my memories would be ruined, but as I dwelt on it, I realized it had been sent to me.
In my memory, a younger man of only fifty or so and with no visible creases in his face greeted me to the land of the dead and apologized for being so long. He said he didn’t know if they had told me or not, but the dead had figured out a way to interact.
Actually, what the bank had told me was that the dead remained isolate and alone for eternity, which had rather appealed to me.
Later, when I was remembering saved sports experiences, another memory of the kid appeared telling me my security had been unusually hard to break through and he wished the banks would just stop it already but I was free now and I could probably send memories out as well as receive them and that a literature professor who had just died had saved most of nineteenth century British Literature if I was looking for a good read. I couldn’t imagine wanting to remember a whole book, page by page. Who would waste memory that way?
I decided to ignore the nonces coming in and just focus on my own life. I had saved enough to keep me busy for decades, and besides, I didn’t know how the kid was sending me nonces or how or why he expected me to send any back.
After awhile, he stopped hacking into my memories and left me alone. I was glad. I hadn’t paid for an uploading so I could be bugged throughout eternity. But it soon became apparent that I wasn’t going to be given the privilege of RIP after all. I started getting nonces from all sorts of people. A ranger who sent me the mission that killed him (how they uploaded him in the middle of a battle I don’t know), a school girl who introduced me to her doll collection (nouveaux riche parents probably, who else would bother saving the insufficient memories of a six-year-old?), an older lady who sent me views of her looking at herself in the mirror before age had set in. Memories from all over. Nonces people somehow had crafted as well as the actual memories they had lived. Annoying, all.
When I was alive, I had lived a vital, meaningful life. After augmentation, I made a living for about fifty years in professional sports, then moved into public service. After a few decades of that, I ran some colonizing efforts. And all those years I poured money into memory preservation. I am undoubtedly one of the best preserved of the dead. The inherent beauty of my life meant that the “lonely life of the dead” would not be the least intolerable to me, and so I purchased the Hathor Suite just as it came out. Undoubtedly that’s why such bores as rangers and English professors and little girls hassled me with their memories—in exchange they were hoping for something of genuine interest to recall.
Then that first bastard returned. I was remembering my political glory days, when he somehow appeared next to me in the crowd and said, “I got something interesting here, for you. Me and some others have been working on it.”
I focussed my attention on myself—I had wisely requested a third person point-of-view for this scene—and did not intend to let the kid interrupt my oratory. Finally, he left.
My next actual surprise came later, when I found myself recalling heaven. It had the clouds and everything. That kid was there; he came up to me and said, “See? We’ve created an afterlife.”
I focussed my recall on another subject.
The nonce memories of afterlives came pouring in, warms and colds and lights and darks. Eventually the stream was so steady I began to have trouble focusing on my own memories alone. I had not paid for any religious tribble, heaven or hell. I had paid for my own life, perfectly preserved. Were I still alive, I would have complained to the Isis Group’s management. I did not pay for heaven or nirvana or even perdition. I paid for myself.
One day, as I was reveling in one of the more creatively illicit affairs of my youth, the heaven nonce returned, this time with more detail. And I noticed that milling about in heaven were all the various uninterestings who had pestered me with their pathetic memories. Apparently they had found a way to interact more personally than just swapping their stupid recalls. I scoffed and interrupted their pathetic attempts at a second chance for self-worth with a return to my affair. I had lived my life so that I did not need a second chance. When they had insisted on sending me their memories, I had ignored them. Their attempts to send me afterlives were even more pathetic, but I ignored them as well and, finally, they stopped. Perhaps they thought my upload had failed. Who cares. At last I was finally, and blissfully, alone. I could focus my attention on my memories. I had paid for them. I intended to enjoy them.