Searching for answers can be painful or wonderful.
I could hear them whispering through the screened kitchen window. It would be about me. Whispers were always about me. It was confusing. Mom and Dad thought I couldn’t understand them. So what sense did it make to whisper? Since I couldn’t tune them out, I wished they would stop. The doorbell rang. Good, I thought, maybe this visitor will keep them in the living room and I can find joy again.
Rocking in a cushioned pool side chair, the Florida night sky filled my mind. Stars fascinated me. Their pattern tonight was glorious. It was almost the same as the previous night’s. Remembering all the patterns from all the years I’d stared at them, I loved to entertain myself by flowing back and forth through them. If I rushed the patterns along, the stars danced like a laser light show.
Grabbing my upper arms, Dad stopped my rocking. “Eric. Eric.” I looked into Dad’s eyes. Dad’s pupils jerked about, searching my face. Finally, Dad’s forehead wrinkles went away. I could hear and understand people regardless of whether I looked at them, but everyone seemed happier if I looked into their eyes.
“We’re going to my lab. You’ll like it there. I’m going to free you. You’ll like being free.” A tear trickled down Dad’s cheek.
Mom was weeping too and hugged me at the car door. If I was going to like being free, I didn’t understand their tears.
Dad lied to me. I hated being free. I had no senses to perceive the universe with. Free was a void with no light, no sound, no smells, no taste and touch. I didn’t seem to have a body, just a mind. But I still had my patterns. Oh, my beautiful patterns. My mind could picture them, and I raced through their dancing firelight.
Suddenly, a bright light replaced them. Static hissed. There was a loud popping. I heard a garbled voice. Was that Dad? The static quieted, and I heard his voice clearly.
“Eric, can you hear me?”
How was I supposed to reply? I had no mouth. No head to nod.
“Dr. Schultz, the audio monitor reacted to your voice.”
“Excellent,” Dad said. “Eric, I’m focusing your camera. I mean your eye.”
There was a sound of rustling fabric. In seconds, I could see pale blue vertical pin stripes on a white background. It must be my dad’s shirt.
“Sir, the camera is working.”
My Dad twisted in his chair. I could see past him to a monitor on a laboratory counter showing a picture of a monitor on a laboratory counter, which showed an infinite tunnel of nested monitors on laboratory counters. My vision blurred along with a sliding sound as my camera moved. Had I a mouth, I would have screamed. Enormous eyes and a nose filled my vision.
“Dr. Schultz, we have a spike on many indicators.”
The giant’s face moved back to become Dad still seated.
“Sorry, Eric. Over the next few hours, things are going to be confusing and scary. I’m going to do my best to explain what’s happening as we go along. Okay?”
Silly man. I still had no way to respond to his questions.
He looked down toward his left as if searching for words to explain something in a simplified way to me. It surprised me to know I now realized this. A quick review of the patterns of his word choices during my entire life confirmed he’d always done this after looking down to his left. How was this comprehension been beyond my grasp until now?
“People want to go to the stars,” Dad said, looking past my camera.
I could hear people behind me moving about the lab and whispering. I didn’t care what Dad was looking at. Odd though, his eyes weren’t moving. Was he seeing with his mind rather than his eyes, like I often did? It was so amazing that this had never occurred to me before. Others might see mind star patterns too. Oh, my delightful star patterns. My mind filled with joy. Stars! Stars! Stars! Yes, I want to go to them too.
Dad continued, “Humans cannot go in our current bodies. I know you can’t understand this, but we evolved to live on just this particular planet and no place else: just this gravity; just this air; just eating this planet’s plants and animals. To travel to the stars, we need new bodies. Like the one you’re in now.”
Dad’s desk chair creaked as he leaned back. “I’ve been working on this cyber project my entire career. Our prototype is primitive, but it’s ready for us to proceed to the next step. Previous animal upload tests confirmed we were ready. We could successfully upload a human if we tried. Eric, we succeeded. That privilege was granted to you.”
I didn’t understand most of what Dad said, but I understood some of it. An unfamiliar emotion overwhelmed me. I’d never felt like this before. What if the upload had failed? Would I remain in my biological body? Could I still enjoy my star patterns? What if it was partially successful? Could it have been a one-way journey into that hellish void I’d first experienced? I was confused. Somehow, my parents were okay with putting my carefree existence at risk. The new emotion I felt was hate.
Unfamiliar emotions and new ideas continued to develop in my cyber-body over the following weeks. My damaged biological mind had experienced limits which were not part of my cyber one. Actually, I’m not sure I now had limits except the speed of electrons. Filling a vast internal reservoir with information was my task twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Not needing sleep, I had a more productive time.
My parent’s decision to upload me still bothered me. Eventually, on the usual week day Mom visited me at the lab, I arranged a meeting.
I walked into Dad’s office. Two simple office chairs sat in front of his desk. My mom was in the farthest one. Once seated, Mom got straight to the point. “Sweetheart, Daddy says you have a question that is bothering you. We will answer it if we can.”
“Why did you risk my life uploading my mind into this cyber body?”
Dad jerked suddenly forward, putting his crossed arms on his desk. Staring directly into my camera, he said, “Son, there was no risk. None at all. I definitely wouldn’t have uploaded you if there were even the remotest risk. Your mother and I made this decision together. Had she believed there was a risk, she would have stopped me.” He was lying.
Not moving even a micro inch, I scrutinized him as I asked, “Did you ever love me?”
“Oh, course we love you,” Mom declared. “Why would you ask such a thing?”
She didn’t know I could interpret body language behaviors better than a lie detector. My camera eye and audio sensor picked up details such as blink rate, respiration, pulse, micro gestures, and facial muscles. She was being truthful, yet she was anxious about something.
Dad, however, looked threatened. His elbows moved to press against his sides. Eyes darting to Mom’s, he had trouble swallowing. His swivel chair turned a few degrees to face his office door. Smiling, he said, “Eric, don’t doubt it for a moment. Your birth has been the happiest part of our lives.”
These specific words spoke the truth, but his body showed he was being deceptive.
If I had a biological body, I think I might have doubled over. Reddened eyes would have flowed with tears. Would such an avenue of expressed grief have helped me or left me in even more despair? In my cyber body, my parents saw the body language of a vending machine.
It was crazy, but I wanted to deepen all of our pain; both mine and theirs by asking, “Was I an embarrassment to you Dad, a burden to you Mom? Is that why you risked my life on this project? Did you hope either success or failure would be better than the damaged son you had?”
As with most mature humans, my unhindered intelligence allowed complex emotions and thoughts to exist simultaneously. I had found my answers. Nothing good would come from causing Mom and Dad more pain than the guilt they were already feeling. Along with my repressed anger, with knowing how unloved I was, I also realize how blessed I am. The upload worked like a miracle.
I can see patterns in the knowledge I’ve consumed. Sort of like a savant, I comprehend new scientific insights daily. The subsequent enhanced cyber-body we developed was because of my engineering. Now half of Dad’s team has a cyber-body. The human team members are finding it hard to fathom our engineering breakthroughs.
Occasionally I think back to my night time rocking beside our Florida pool. I still enjoy zooming through all my childhood star patterns, but mostly I think forward. My heart is so full of wonder.
Our starship pulled itself out of our home solar system’s gravity well toward Alpha Centauri, where we have explored for almost two hundred years. Some people have stayed in the colonies we built on the various planets and moons. They think they have found their answers in this triple star solar system. Others of us are still seeking our answers.
My thoughts are melancholy at the moment since Alpha Centauri’s brightest planet faded from our view a few minutes ago. All two hundred thousand of us watched as one. We maintain our separate minds and personalities, but each of us feels like we are the starship itself. Living as a part of the starship’s computer during a voyage, it feels like we are the starship traveling among the starts. I love the feel of starlight on my skin.
Word count: 1653