Living in the Singularity
by Tom Borthwick
I guess I could believe that. She was always pretty happy about everything, as far as I could tell. I mean, we loved each other. Love each other, I should say. She’s not dead. Just elsewhere. Only complaints she ever had were about not moving ahead. But what the hell did that mean? I didn’t know and when I asked her, it seemed she didn’t either. She was just restless. Part of me thought maybe she did want a kid after all, but was maybe too afraid to bring it up, thinking it would upset me. Or maybe she knew the bad spot we were in. But, no. Not if she was a 10. Things were pretty good.
“I guess you can put me down as a 10, too, now that I think about it.”
“Are you sure about that, sir? Is that accurate?”
“Yeah. If my wife was a 10, then I am, too,” I say. “Things are pretty good.”
“Wonderful,” he says, dotting some ‘i’s and crossing some ‘t’s. He fixes my little mistake and then slides the forms into a slot in the desk.
“Question,” I say.
“Yes?” he replies.
“Will I see my wife smile in there? Or at least feel it?”
“She’ll appear to your consciousness exactly how you conceive of her, as beautiful as the first day you met.”
That sounds too good to be true. If Mary’s in there, though, she believed. I have to believe, too. Maybe this will be as good as it sounds.
“If everybody Integrating is happy, then why Integrate in the first place?”
“Nobody wants to plateau, Tim. We all want more. This is just... more.”
When I don’t reply, he goes on, “We will see you tomorrow, then, sir. First thing.”
“Thanks,” I say.
“Thank you for choosing Solacium to turn your good life into a perfect one.”
Then it’s back to the apartment in the driverless Solacium car.
Except when I get back, there are a few guys in gray overalls crowding my apartment, moving out all my stuff. The place has been picked clean. Nobody acknowledges my presence.
In the next room, I hear someone say, “This stuff is worthless, they’re just going to dump it.” Another replies, “Who knows? They have those ‘People Museums’ in The City these days. Maybe one of the Solacium people will take some of the pictures. They’re kinda nice.”
One of the guys emerges from the bedroom with a box full of the pictures from the wall and I snatch out the top photo as he passes. He dismisses me with a look and a grunt and keeps moving.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
I know the answer before he gives it. He gives it anyway, without breaking stride or making eye contact. “We have a work order. Says you’re going for Integration. Means you signed your stuff over.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it now,” I say. “You could’ve left me a pot to piss in.” I quickly check the bathroom; they haven’t taken the toilet out.
The last guy just shrugs it off, gives the place the once-over while I stare, and then goes out the door. The apartment looks much bigger with nothing in it. Hasn’t seemed this big since the day Mary and I moved in. She said we had too much room.
Sure, we filled the place over the years. Jesus, even the pictures are gone from the walls now. I can’t take any of this with me, I know. But I didn’t even get to watch them dismantle my life before my eyes.
I’ve got this picture and its frame left, at least. I take the photo out and let myself absorb it. Mary won’t look like this inside. She won’t look like anything. I don’t need it to memorize her features: the pale, freckled skin, untouched by age in this photo. That flaming red hair, petite nose and tiny mouth. I took this one of her at Campbell’s Ledge. She loved hiking there. It overlooks where three streams meet a river in the depths of a beautiful, forested valley. That smile.
I fold the picture in half and put it in my front shirt pocket. Close to the heart, to be symbolic.
I have nowhere to sleep tonight. I don’t have anything. I guess I did it to myself when I signed it all over. But I have the photo and I have my memories. And tomorrow morning, I’ll be with my wife again.
No problems. All melted away. Nothing to worry about. Never have to wipe my ass again.
I sleep on the floor. Don’t even have sheets. Not that it’s cold. It just would be nice.
* * *
My back is killing me and the last thing I want to be doing is lying down, but it’s what needs to be done. Wires are coming out of every part of me. My veins are probably a mess. It’s not painful having it in there, but it’s like an IV — every time you shift, you can feel it moving around inside you.
They numbed me to hell, but I’m still uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the knowledge that they’re poking around in my brain, but I can’t be sure. I’m still conscious and thinking straight, so far as I can tell.
“What’s it going to be like?” I say to the nurse, or doctor, or Solacium Integration Specialist, or whatever they are called — the one that’s probably putting wires in my brain.
“Well,” she says, biting her lower lip. I’m interrupting her concentration, obviously. I probably shouldn’t do that. Last thing I need is for this to go bad. She stops and looks down at me. She’s got a pretty face. A redhead. Like Mary. Can’t smell this lady, though. Wouldn’t want to anyway.
“Can I smell in there?” I say.
She laughs. It’s nice to see somebody smile. And not a glow-in-the-dark smile, either. “No,” she says. “And you won’t have to worry about bathing, either. None of that’s necessary.”
She didn’t get my meaning, but I got my answer.
“How come you aren’t in?” I say.
“The cook eats last,” she replies.
“Just like the CEO.” And Mary. I’m coming, Mary.
“Yes. I’ll go in one day, though,” she says.
“Do you live in The City?” I ask.
“No,” she replies.
“Since I’m going to Integrate one day, they won’t allow it. When we reach our quota of jacked people, I can go in and join you.” She pauses for a moment. “I don’t have anything to add, really.”
She’ll get what she wants one day, that’s just about all anybody could ask.
“Are you ready?” she says after a moment.
“I am,” I say. “That’s it?”
“I finished hooking you up before we began talking. I was just double-checking connections. Standard procedure.”
“Then we can begin?”
“Yes,” I say.
She disappears and that’s the last I see of her. It’ll be the last I see of anybody in this life, I imagine.
Here I come, Mary.
I feel nothing as the minutes pass. I stare at the ceiling and let my mind drift, probably not unlike it will soon. Twenty years is a long time. The past few years have been routine. Mundane, even. But the early years, boy, were they something. Weekends away hiking, enjoying nature. Isn’t much of nature left these days, with the explosion of technology.
The photo is in my hand. I don’t remember how it got there... But that’s okay. I can see Mary, hair rustling in the low wind coming off of a creek that wound toward a cliff. It’s where I proposed. Had the ring in my pocket the whole time. She didn’t see it coming. I never thought of myself as the romantic type, but I was pretty proud of myself. She accepted and to this day, whenever I hear the sound of rushing water, on the TV or even sometimes when I run bathwater, I think of going down on one knee at the top of that waterfall. She bawled her eyes out — the happy kind of bawling. I used to...
My head starts to quiver. Maybe it’s more my brain. But I’m not trembling. It feels like static is swirling through me. No shock, just steady tingling, like electrical fingers dragging lightly across my body.
The room starts to dim and slowly my sight fades to blank. I should be scared, but I’m not. It could be the drugs, or the anticipation of Mary. The rest of my senses dim. Is this what dying is like? But this is living, the commercials say.
There’s... something. Something at the edge of my mind, I feel it inching over me.
Mary, where are you?
Senses return. No, not senses. The sense of something. Of everything? There is something enveloping me. Millions of people. Not people. Consciousnesses? One thought. Millions of thoughts in nanoseconds of time.
Mary, where are you?
Thoughts pulse at me, with me, from me: We are powerless... we are trapped over and over until... These are not the voices of 10s or 9s or 8s... Where are you... where are you... where are you...
It’s all I feel, like I’m being thought at, or thinking with the collective feeling of loss and misery of all who come to this place... It’s all mind... We are trapped... I am...
I know I’m fading away... dying?... I feel... Mary?... and the me that I am becomes lost in the we that we are.
Copyright © 2013 by Tom Borthwick