The Future

Mary woke up and was confused. She felt strange and didn’t recognize where she was. There was a faint humming in the background and bright lights that made her want to squint, but she couldn’t so she looked down instead.

“Ms. Sinclair,” a voice said, “are you awake?”

Mary couldn’t tell where the voice was coming from. It appeared to be coming from inside her head. “Where am I? Who are you?” she said.

“I am Nurse Sneed,” said the voice, “and you are in the recovery room at “LifeExtension. You have just completed the transfer of your consciousness into a robotic unit. Things will seem strange to you for a while as you adjust to your new body, but it will come to you.”

The bright light slowly started to form into images, and she realized she was looking up into the lights on the ceiling. She tried to sit up but was unable to move her body.

Nurse Sneed’s voice came back into her head and said, “It is going to take a little while for your consciousness to connect with the neural network. Once they are connected, you will have full use of your body.”

As the nurse spoke, Mary could start to feel her toes engage, and she curled them reflexively just to confirm that she had control. After her toes, the sensation worked its way up her body and she could feel each part as it came alive, until finally she was able to move her head and look around the room.

She was in what looked like a small hospital room, with a variety of monitors and wires on the walls. Nurse Sneed turned out to be an android unit. She tried sitting up again but was still not capable of controlling her large body movements.

“So, I am a robot?” Mary asked.

“Technically, you are an android, but we prefer New Person.” Said the nurse, “You are the same person, just in a new body that will allow you to live a long, healthy life. In a few minutes we will get you up and let you see yourself.”

Mary had picked out her body, but it looked different from the inside. She looked at herself in the mirror and had some trouble connecting with the person looking back at her from the mirror. That person was young and healthy looking, much like she had been forty years ago. “I look amazing, and I feel so healthy. Thank you!”

“Most people have the same reaction,” said the nurse. “it's why we are here.”

Two days later, Mary was sitting in the counselor’s office, waiting to be discharged. “You realize, Ms. Sinclair, that your world is going to be very different. You won’t be able to just slip back into your old life.”

“Yes,” Mary said. “I sat through lectures and watched all the videos. I’m ready.”

 

“Well,” said the exit counselor, standing to escort Mary out the door. “We wish you a long, happy and full life, and thank you choosing LifeExtension.”

As Mary stepped into the sunlight outside the building, she marveled at how her eyes automatically adjusted and shaded for the light, no more need for sunglasses. She walked toward the car that was waiting, with a lightness in her step that she barely remembered, looking forward to her life as a New Person.

At the homecoming reception sponsored by LifeExtension, Mary’s friend Vanessa said, “You look so amazing, and full of life. I’m going to have to check into this myself.”

Two weeks later Mary was sitting at Vanessa’s funeral, thinking about how she was going to miss her old friend and how sad she was that Vanessa did not have a chance to transition. Before Mary’s transition, they used to talk about passing on, but they were both the same age and it was more about who was going to go first.

Now that Mary was a New Person, she realized that her friends were all going to die before she did. After Vanessa, it was Emily Smith, then Virginia Reyes and Francis. One by one all of her friends got sick and died. Next, it would be their children, and their grandchildren.

Through it all, Mary was the same. She didn’t age, her brain function didn’t fade and her body stayed active and strong. Only, the loneliness grew with each passing.

“For a while,” she told the LifeExtension counselor, “I tried to make new friends, but eventually they aged and died as well. Now, it’s just me and my memories, which never fade due to the technology. How long is my body expected to last?

The counselor typed something into the computer and said, “According to the manufacturer’s specifications, roughly a thousand years. You get to see the future.”

“A thousand years…” Mary said.

“It’s what you signed up for – the eternal life plan. Many people have problems with the changes as their world starts to go away.” The counselor laid a brochure on the table in front of Mary. ‘Maybe you should join one of our support groups.”

The next day, Mary went to a meeting, just to see what it was all about. The woman who sat down next to her in the meeting room said, in a light tone, “Hello, my name is Dolores, and I have nothing to live for.”

“I’m Mary,” she said, “and I understand completely.”

“How long have you been a New Person?” Dolores asked.

“97 years,” said Mary, “65 friends, three children and five grandchildren. And I still look like I’m 29.”

“You do look good,” said Dolores, “Although your clothes look a little dated.”

“I stopped trying to keep up years ago. What keeps you going?” asked Mary.

Dolores leaned in a little closer to Mary and said softly, “looking for a way out.”

 

“But there is no way out. I’ve checked,” said Mary.

“I know an electrical engineer, and he thinks he may have found a way, but it will take two people to do it,” said Dolores. “I have been coming to these meetings hoping to find someone willing to try.”

As often as Mary had thought about it, she was a little shocked to hear someone talk as if it was a reality. “What would be involved?”

“It’s a little complicated, but if you’d like to go for a walk, I can explain it.” Dolores stood up and extended her hand toward Mary, who paused briefly then reached out and took it.

They talked while they walked up the hill behind the clinic to a spot overlooking the beach. Standing at the edge of the path, looking at the waves breaking onto the beach, and the ocean stretching out to the horizon, Mary considered what Dolores had said. She turned to Dolores and said, “I thought beauty like this would be enough.”

“But it is empty without the ones you love to share it with,” Dolores responded.

“What they don’t tell you is that your memory stays with you and that eventually it overwhelms your present and obscures the future.”

“And each death, each loss of a treasured landmark or modernization of a familiar space adds to it, as if the world you know is being taken away from you, piece by piece.” Dolores continued, “Every time I remember my childhood home being torn down to make way for high-rise multi-use apartment units, I want to cry.”

Mary suddenly felt the loss of her youngest child again, a memory that returned over and over and felt like she was living through it each time she thought about it. Mary held up the thin wire Dolores had given her, “And this will make the past go away?”

“Your life will restart today. You won’t remember anyone or anything from before you reset.” Dolores reached out and put her arm on Mary’s shoulder. “Are you sure you want to give it all up?”

“I’ve lived that life, more than enough,” Mary said, reaching up and touching Dolores’ face. “How about you?”

“Let’s free ourselves from the sad weight of the past,” Dolores said. She reached out and slid the wire into a small hole behind Mary’s ear, as Mary did the same.

Mary’s past flashed through her mind as they each pushed their index fingers into the data port on the others’ side.

There was a flash of numbers, a brightness…and then darkness.

Mary felt consciousness returning and opened her eyes to a beautiful, young woman she had never seen before. The woman had a small wire sticking out of her neck, behind her ear, and looked very peaceful.

“Hello,” she said, “I am Mary.”

“The other woman thought for a second and said, “My name is Dolores.”

“I feel like I know you,” said Mary. “Would you like to get some tea?”

“I believe I would,” said Dolores.

The two women turned to walk down the path toward town, and Dolores asked, “Where are you from?”

“I can’t recall,” Mary said, “How about you?”

“No idea.”

“Well, then,” said Mary, “Let’s just focus on the future.”