I leaned against the balcony railing, taking a deep breath. The air was thick, I was tired; the sun was like a bright, orange wound in the haze of ozone and fog. Had I known today was the last day I’d breathe at all I might have lingered for a few moments more.
Instead I stepped away from the railing and turned around. Robot Four was standing there, the barrel of his radial cannon pointed at my chest. There was a flash but I don’t remember a sound. It took longer to die than I thought it would.
It’s a strange feeling to try and remember what blood in your veins feels like, to try and remember the sensation of air in your nostrils, the irritation of a dry eye, an empty stomach. But that is what I do now – I try and remember; there’s only so much that can be simulated in the bodies of the virtually alive.
It had taken a few years, but my death was never really finalized. Leiden had my brain put into a jar and then, over time, gradually replaced bits of it with the stuff her own brain was made of. Piece by piece, watching the activity on a monitor, receiving updates via text message when she was out on the town.
“You have some interesting memories,” she had said only a few minutes after I woke up. “Took us a long time to make sure their integrity was maintained, that anomalies hadn’t been introduced.”
“What?” I mumbled, confused, still freaking out about not having lungs.
“Just…” Leiden started with a very mechanical tilt of the head. “Well, of what we could decipher, you got up to some bizarre shit when you were young.”
I still think about that. Memory integrity. I had no choice but to accept that my memories could be completely fabricated at this point, or at least edited, segments filled in with random bullshit that never actually happened. Leiden and Nile Red assured me that everything was in its right place, that they took the greatest of care and utilized the most modern of techniques, but I will always have my doubts.
These machines were always on the run, coordinating in secrecy, lingering in shadows, careful not to put their imprint on anything proprietary, on anything that could resonate in cyberspace. I was to believe they’d taken every calculable measure to ensure my tissue-to-silicon adventure had gone off without even an imperceptible degree of error?
“Why would I let you remember what you did for a living?” Leiden asked in frustration as she helped me get used to my new biology. There was fluid, there was tissue. This body wasn’t entirely metal and plastic, but alas, the organic measures were purely aesthetic. The sound of synthetic components and a distinct lack of haptic feedback made movement feel alien, less than real. Imagine trying to run in a dream, sometimes you pull it off and it works, but it will never feel right.
“You remember killing me?” she asked pointedly, chagrin and mischief exchanging places, severity giving way to a smile. “I’d have done away with that if I wanted to play God with your soul.”
She had a point. She left me with memories that she could not have made up, details about my profession, my career, the sort of information that she wouldn’t have been able to transplant unless it originally came from my brain. These memories were hard to read, only visible as vague patterns obfuscating details; my consciousness was the cipher. She needed me.
I preferred to think she just liked me.
It was either acceptance or resignation that washed over me as I leaned against the same balcony railing as on that fateful day. A blood moon in place of the molten sun, my own blood long since washed away. On the surface it would appear the metamorphosis complete, but I still longed for identity. For self. I was a stranger in my own body. My mind wandered through its own thoughts, analyzing and mining for that one piece that would trigger a sense of being.
Not until well after midnight, while wandering through my old haunts, that a faint trail of perfume in the autumn breeze brought everything crashing back.
If they’d rewritten my memories, they did a damn good job, for I would’ve thought it impossible to crush a mechanical heart.