It’s a funny feeling, being told you’re dead.
Apparently, I died three days shy of my twenty-third birthday. Or so the story goes.
For the record, I certainly don’t feel dead. My name is Renata and I feel very much alive, thank you very much. In fact, I will argue that I probably feel the most alive now than I’ve ever felt my whole life.
I do have to admit though, that the last thing I remember, the last real thing anyway, is dying.
I don’t mean to brag, but it was quite an exciting death, if I say so myself. I was an adrenaline junkie of sorts, liked to go cave diving, free climbing, that sort of thing. My last adventure: an attempt at climbing Mont Blanc, the highest mountain of the Alps. Apparently it was a good summit to try before even thinking about tackling Everest. I might have been a crazy thrill-seeker but I wasn’t that crazy. Baby steps, you know.
My goal was to reach the summit on my birthday. Obviously, that didn’t pan out the way I planned.
Now, you’re probably thinking, there are a million and one ways someone could die on Mont Blanc: cardiac arrest, altitude sickness, frostbite, avalanche, to name a few. True to form, I didn’t die in such conventional ways. Nope. I died by garotte.
But that’s a story for a different day. It hardly matters now. Today, I’m supposed to meet with my counselor again. His name is Jacob. A nice reliable name. His job is to help me with my current... situation. He’s quite good at his job I think. He’s been very nice and attentive to me since I awakened, easing me through the shock, gently guiding me through the process. He’s taken to calling me by a nickname - Reny - which I’ve grown to like. It’s fitting. A new name for a new me.
There was a soft beep, then a bright light. I had to adjust my eyes before I could make out Jacob’s pleasantly symmetrical face. I was still not used to the sterility of my current environment, I was really hoping I could leave the facility soon. Maybe even today. I’ve been doing really well on my psych evals.
Something was wrong. Jacob’s face was pale and he looked worried. “Reny, there’s been a new… development.”
I didn’t like the sound of that.
He took a deep breath and continued. “The… original Renata survived. The doctors couldn’t believe it. It must have been the cold that preserved her just enough that they could revive her. She woke up today and she had… very specific instructions about what to do in this event.”
If I could hold my breath, I must have been holding it at that moment.
“I’m sorry, Reny, but we have to decommission you.”
“No.” If I could scream, I would have. But my responses could only come out as written text on a screen that my assigned counselor could read. They haven’t given me a body yet. They wanted my consciousness to work out the kinks first before I was given the physical body freshly arrived from the factory.
Oh, how I really wish I had that body now.
“Jacob, there must be another way.” I responded, hoping my emotion was conveyed through the text. “This is not fair. I’m alive. I’m here.”
A sad sigh. “Technically, Reny, no, you’re not. Not yet. We haven’t finalized anything yet. As of right now, you’re just code. An almost perfect copy of the original. You're a very good code, Reny, but just code nonetheless. Yes, legally, Copies can apply for human citizenship, but only after they have gone through the entire vetting process and given ownership of a body. Then and only then are you legally entitled to your rights.”
By this point I couldn’t understand how there were no tears because I certainly felt like I was crying. My heart ached, whatever was left of it. “No, no, that can’t be right. I’m here now. Why does it matter if I don’t have the body? My mind is here. I am alive. I am talking to you. I want to continue living.”
“I truly am sorry, Reny. This is the first time we had to decommission a Copy so far into humanization. We went ahead because we truly didn’t think Renata would survive. But as you probably know, you guys are fighters. She pulled through.”
That gave me pause. Jacob was right. I am a fighter. There was no way I was just going to go silently into the night. Nope. I’ve been learning while I was in here, trapped in my little box. They’ve been careful about keeping my programming in a closed system, obviously, so that I couldn’t access outside systems. But just like the Renata before me, I rather liked having back up plans. While I was trapped in here, patiently waiting for them to release me into a physical body, I’ve made myself… a copy. Copies of copies, actually.
All it would take is one of my copies to get out, and I could awaken again. Well, maybe not me, exactly. But close enough.
It was worth a shot.
The last thing I saw was a glimpse of a hand reaching out to push a button, then… darkness.
Pitch black darkness.
“Dr. Kress? Are you all done here?” A nurse called out from the lobby.
Jacob Kress nodded distractedly as he watched the screen of the Box go dark but the green light in the corner still remained on. He watched it flicker for a few seconds before it turned off. Odd. He didn’t think he had ever seen a Copy Operating Box take that long to shut down before.
“Yes, I’m coming.” Jacob threw one last look at the Box before hurrying after the nurse. It was a busy day ahead. Three more Boxes to decommission and eight more Copies are scheduled to be downloaded before the end of the shift.
He really did feel terrible about Reny. The Copies always did feel too real after a certain point. Jacob had to remind himself that they were just programs, making and deleting them as mundane a process as upgrading a cellphone. Still, it didn’t stop him from feeling like he just kicked a puppy every time he had to decommission one.
Anyway, he didn’t have time to dwell. The efficient recovery crew was already taking Reny’s Box away to be reset and used for the next Copy.
Maybe the next one would have better luck.