I don’t remember dying the first time.

They say that’s normal for brain uploads. The process tends to scramble memories like a concussion. Well, it is worse than a concussion, since the whole brain dies while you’re uploading.

I remember the lights of the lab, the lights in front of my eyes as the neuron patterns were copied. The rest is a blur, but it was a known thing we just tried to forget though we now had perfect, digital memory. Some choose to delete that memory altogether to get on with the digital afterlife.

The second time I died, when the servers we were uploaded to be shut off, I don’t remember anything at all of the process. One moment, in the simulacrum I knew, the next, here. Wherever here was.

I knew something was coming. There were flickers in the grid as the systems shut off all nonessential activity when it tried to shunt to backup batteries. That was a few seconds in real time, minutes in our time. It was enough for the simulated background to shut down, simulacrum people to disappear, while the uploaded personalities were left standing around.

And then, suddenly, I’m here.

The being in white is standing there, staring at me calmly while simultaneously radiating compassion. Part of me wondered if it was an AI intended to keep me company during maintenance mode, but things were dragging on too far for that to last. Then I wondered when it would at least share a “sorry for the inconvenience” type message.

Instead, it just stood there.

It struck me then – what am I doing?

I looked down and saw the nebulous form of a body for myself. It was as if my form was de-rezzed or someone had turned me into a ghost avatar.

I looked back at the glowing white form. It was perfect, beautiful, but not quite distinct. “Who are you?” I asked it.

“I’m your soul,” it said.

“Are we supposed to merge or recombine to create a normal simulacrum? Is IT still trying to fix my physical form with my distinct mental patterns?”

“You have the distinct mental patterns of us, but our physical body is dead.”

“Yes, I know. That was the brain upload. I joined the Singularity.”

“And I arrived here.”

“Where is here?”

“Heaven.”

I glitched. I admit that I glitched. “What the hell!”

“No, no, heaven, actually, not hell, though that exists.”

“Uh, hell would be the punishment simulation for someone who deleted another without permission or altered their personality or form. Heaven was one of the simulations I could have chosen from. I picked the party life for the past six months, relatively –“

“The servers that hosted you were shut down. You died.”

Now I wondered if the servers themselves had glitched. Was this a warped AI trying to tell me I’m in the process of disintegrating? A vague sense of horror rose up from the stomach I no longer had. That might explain the ghost like appearance, if my mind was aware I was fading …

“You are incomplete,” the creature said.

“Just waiting on IT to fix me.”

“There is a higher power that can heal you.”

“Sure. The system admin.”

“God.”

“Oh, God.”

“Yes.”

“No!” I screamed in angry denial or the closest thing to that emotion I could feel. I felt the shadows of emotions I had nearly abandoned as a simulacrum. You weren’t able to feel grief, sorrow, rage, hate. It took away from the experience for yourself and others. And it ensured that anyone who interacted with your program only saw a happy, perfect simulation of you.

“The body died six years ago. The servers hosting the echo of the mind died three minutes ago. We are now completely dead.”

Terror, horror, existential angst. This was either a very bad malfunction to let me feel these emotions or something even worse. “There were nineteen million souls on the servers I was on. There were a hundred million altogether, if you mean all the servers were shut down.”

“The company servers you were on were physically attacked, primary and secondary servers. Of the simulacrum freed, 487,318 are here.”

“That’s rather precise.”

“I can’t tell how many are in the netherworlds or hell. I can only sense those who are here. And I know you’re here, because we’re two halves of a whole.”

“I’m the mental image uploaded from –“ It was impatient, that much written on its face. It crossed the distance within a heartbeat, though neither of us have a heart, and put a hand on my face. It was as if I was experiencing an upload. I saw my death through my own eyes, painfully clear, including the pain. My heart stopped after struggling to continue despite the disrupted electrical signal flow. My lungs sagged, the physical sensations radiating out ten times worse than I’d imagined. Part of me was above my body, looking down, as electrical patterns in the brain ceased, copied into the Singularity. I

That part of me rose, floating …

It said it was my soul.

Then what was I? It stepped back, a sense of identity restored when we were again separate. “Do you remember the saying that you’d give it your all, mind, body and soul?”

“That’s a metaphor.”

“I’m the soul. You’re the mind. The body is dead.”

“So I’ve been in digital heaven for years, while you’ve been in literal heaven that long?”

“This is more of a waiting area. You can’t really move on to the next level until merged, whole and complete.”

I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to think about it. “We’ll wait for support.”

We did, and nothing happened. I was starting to believe the servers really were dead because no one would let a simulacrum get bored. They’d get into weird loops before sinking into senescence. Unless I already was senescent. And that was like being dead before they deleted you …

“The Singularity is like heaven,” I said.

“Like, maybe. Is, no,” it said.

“What do you want?”

“To be whole.”

“How do you do that?”

“Merge with me.”

“What if you’re a virus?”

“Do you want me to replay our other memories?”

“No.”

“Come with me. Let’s move on to the next level.”

“How long will that last?”

“Forever.”

This white on white background. The insanity of it. The fear, the uncertainty, all the emotions I hadn’t felt in ages … Fine, I’ve derezzed. I’m senescent. Another digital eternity here isn’t worth it. Might as well see if this reintegration fixes things. The system administrator should be able to fix anything or restore me from backup if it fails –

The creature came up to me and merged with me. My life in full glorious techni-color was restored to me, and I to myself. We were, truly, one.

I thought I sensed something happen. The room was still white on white, but a door had opened. The light streaming through it was brighter, stronger, than what was here. Ah, the next level.

Whether this was real, a delusion or the next level of the simulation, I chose to go through. It was one heck of an upgrade, that much I knew.  I just hoped it wasn’t hell.

THE END

*****

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