Sunday, June 9, 2019

Chapter One: Waking Up

I remembered the beginning of the accident that killed me.  Actually, I remembered being scared that I was about to die, but the feeling didn't have any details attached to it.  Memories seem to be indexed by emotions, and this one didn't have anything to which the index could point, it pointed to an empty nothingness.

I felt great, so I sat up in what I discovered was some sort of private room, but it wasn't much like a hospital room.  "I thought I died!" I thought, and looked at my bare ... knee? It had no hair.  It wasn't human.  I guess I lost my leg in the accident but... I felt the palm and fingertips of my hairless hand touching my hairless plastic knee.  It was plastic, like the hand, but I could feel the knee under my palm and the palm on my knee.  I looked around.

"Hello?" I called out.

"Hold on...," came a voice from another room. "I'll be right over, Dave."  That was my wife's voice.

"Didn't I die in a car accident?" I asked.

"Yeah, but remember the download that Chinese company did?"

"Uhh..." I did, but I couldn't believe it.  I hopped out of bed, full of energy and cautiously looked around for a mirror.  Kim came in and said "Oh good, you're up.  Yeah, you died a couple days ago and they finally got your robot loaded up with you this morning so I booted you up and here we are.  It's weird.  You look pretty strange to me, but you sound exactly like... well, Dave, my husband.  Is that really what you are?"

"Yeah," I said.  I wanted to prove it, but I grew sad as I realized I had no way to do that.  All my private memories and knowledge were supposedly in ICM's files, so there could be any number of robots running around thinking they are me.  Then I realized I could be one of them.  Maybe Kim's husband really was gone.  I felt an awful lot like myself though, so I let it go.

"Well, I can't prove it, but I don't suppose that matters much to you.  Where are we?  I want to look in a mirror."

She pointed to a door I hadn't noticed before.  "Your bathroom."  I walked over slowly, curious what the robot I now lived in looked like.  It was a very close match to what I actually looked like, but it was painfully obvious to me that it was something else.  "Where's my body?"

"They still have it," she said. "Oh, we're upstairs from the lab where your- where you are.  Umm, you know what I mean."

I remembered that I signed something saying they could try to use my own body to provide a familiar framework for the program that was now running in the robot that I was. Finally, I said "Oh yeah," and let my voice trail off as if I wanted to say more.

There were a number of things to which ICM required me to agree when I signed up for them to periodically record my brain and bring me back if I ever died.  ICM is  They developed the tech to record a map of the physical and chemical structure of living tissue without damaging it, specifically, the brain.  They would be interviewing and observing me and other robots also running my program to decide what protocols worked best and shut down any that showed problems.  I wonder what that would be like.

"Hey hon, is it safe for you to turn me off?" I asked her.
"How do I do that?" she asked.
"Uhh, well how did you boot me up?"
She answered with a little impatience, "I held your hand for about two minutes after putting a candy in your mouth.  They called it an activator."

I pondered that for a moment: Kim waiting for her husband to come back from being dead. Then a question hit me. "Why weren't you here when I woke up?"

"They said to leave when you started to wake up," she said.
"They said it might not be pretty."  After a moment, she went on. "You're the first one, and they're recording us," she said, pointing at a camera mounted in the wall near the ceiling that was pointed at my pillow.

"Well it looks like it worked!" I exclaimed. "How have you been?"
"I feel a little crazy.  You're the fifth one and I'm getting tired of thinking you're back and then finding out that they want to try another one.  I'm sorry, I'm not supposed to talk about it.  I'm just tired."

"It's okay! It's okay!" came a voice from outside the room.  A guy in a lab coat came rushing in.  He was an ICM tech or something.  "Do you want to stay?" he asked Kim.  She shrugged and walked out.  I started crying.

"What's wrong?" asked the tech.

"She... I just... died a couple days ago.  She lost me, and you guys gave me back to her four times already and then changed your mind.  Is there anyone here that she knows well?  Any of my kids?"  This took me a while to say, and I had to repeat some of it because the crying changed my voice to a scratchy whisper which made me sob a little more because it was so foreign.  Honestly, the foreign scratchiness was just an excuse to sob more.  I was sobbing for Kim and what this must have been doing to her.  I started doubting that living in a robot was a good idea.  At the same time, I was totally alive after dying and had no intention of ceasing to exist again.

"God damn, I have a lot of questions," I said after the tech's silence told me they hadn't thought of having someone here to support Kim.  "Is my phone here?  Do my kids know about the accident?  I can ask more, but you're not answering.  Am I being recorded?  Of course I am.  Good.  Is there a schedule?  Is there a manual for this machine I'm living in? What did you do with the other four robots?  Can you turn them off?  Can I turn myself off? Can I get a copy of the video from that camera? And the audio too?"

"I'm sorry Mr. Scotese, I can't remember all your questions, but yes, you're right about the recording and I will ask if you can review it.  We did not consider contacting anyone to support your wife.  Your phone was recovered from the accident and is on the table there, charging.  I'll find out if I can get you a copy of the schedule.  What else did you ask?"

"I don't remember, but go find out that stuff and I'll call... Umm, have you guys decided whether or not I'm okay, or is there a chance you'll turn me off or whatever and you'll try another one?"

"You're okay.  Your wife might be able to explain better.  I mean, the other attempts we made... There were some difficulties." He got up and left, obviously uncomfortable.  I'm not the kind of person to torture the uncomfortable with interrogation.  At least not when I'm in this robot.  It seems like a way I've always been, but I don't know and I'd been feeling a bit crazy since I realized how much of the biological me was missing from this machine.

Chapter Two

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