...and don't miss the afterparty! ^_^
by Larry Kollar
I was laying on the beach when I got the news. It was a perfect day, as always: sun shining, temperature and wind just right, the hypnotic sound of endless surf. No better way to keep your mind off things.
Until the call came through. The screen unfurled in mid-air, a little off to the side so it wouldn’t block the sun. I was sure what it was about, and the expression on Doc Narayan’s face told me I was right. “I died, huh?”
He grimaced. But before he could answer, the screen split and Henry Portillo popped up.
“Six minutes ago, at 2:17 p.m., your body ceased vital functions,” said Narayan. “Your mind continues to function in virtual, obviously. Whether you’ve died is a matter of debate in some circles.”
“But not legally, just yet,” I said, nodding at Portillo. “What’s up, Henry? Kids already fighting over the will?”
Henry, our family attorney, snorted. “Just a couple things to tell you, Jay.” His smile fell off. “Kathy—”
“Terminated the marriage,” I said. “I know what she’s been up to.”
“I didn’t snoop, really. I was scanning for my cousin’s contact info, and ran across an unfamiliar number with a bunch of texts attached. I got curious, and kinda wish I hadn’t.”
“I’m really sorry, Jay. She only told me about it yesterday. You gonna be okay?”
“You can’t get too worked up about things here.” In virch, you don’t feel emotions like you do in realspace. Being told you’re dead, and finding out your wife is cheating before you’re even buried, is like hearing about it happening to a stranger. Besides, marriage is for the living. I was bummed, but that’s about all. “You said a couple things. What else?”
“Any changes to your burial wishes?” Doc Narayan sat up, paying attention.
“Nope. Just cremate me. I don’t guess any of my organs are worth harvesting. Doc?”
Narayan shook his head. “In that case, I’ll sign off. I’ll make time for you if you want any details.” He disappeared.
Henry looked awful. “Jay, I am so sorry.”
“I knew it was coming,” I reassured him. “If I thought I’d had a chance, I’d have waited it out in the archives.”
“Yeah. That’s the other thing. Are you going to stay in virch?”
“No,” I said. “Archives. I’m not interested in attending my funeral. Nor am I interested in knowing if Kathy marries her guy on the side, or anything else she has to say. Anyone else who wants to talk to me, I’m available.”
“A little harsh, but understandable.”
“I’m glad I hung on long enough to see my kids graduate in realspace. I’m always ready to talk to one or both of them.”
“Instructions have been entered,” said Henry, switching to legal mode. He rattled off the conditions. “You want a proviso about being contacted if they can get you back into realspace?”
“A robo? Sure.”
“Noted. Well, this is it, I guess. I wish things had worked out better for you.”
“Stay sharp, Henry. May you have long life and an early retirement.”
Waking up from archives isn’t much different than from deep sleep. It takes a while before you’re really awake. I found myself in the easy chair I’d woken up in before, sitting in what looked like a well-furnished den. Across from me was a desk with a big screen perched on it. I stretched, more out of habit than necessity, and sat at the desk.
The screen told me: I’d been dead 92 years; the message from Kathy I’d never opened was still there; I’d been woken up for my kids’ weddings and their kids’ graduations, a total of seven times. I was awake now because J.F. Johns, a great-great-great granddaughter aged 11, wanted to talk to me.
I opened the connection. J.F. looked thin, thinner than healthy, and wore some kind of bonnet. Maybe it was just fashions changing. “Hey there,” I said.
“Hi. Can I ask you some stuff?”
“Sure. You need a little help with a history paper or something?”
Her lips quivered, but she forced a smile. “No. I— how old were you?”
“When I died? Forty-eight. Liver cancer.” And I realized why she was calling.
“Why did you decide to be archived?”
“Virch is… well, you’ll probably have to ask your parents, but I can show you around. It can be a fun place—you can have anything you want by thinking it—but by yourself? Not so much.”
“Virch. Is that what you called it?”
“Yeah. What’s it called now?”
“Uploadtopia. Yeah, my parents said I can come visit. I might have to stay. I…”
“I think I can guess. Well, come on over when you’re ready. We’ll go to the beach.”
“That sounds like fun.”
Maybe my archive days are over.
Larry Kollar lives in north Georgia, surrounded by kudzu, trees, and in-laws. His day job involves writing user manuals, some of which may have been fiction, but not by intent. He has had short fictional works published in the Hogglepot Journal and the Were-Traveler. His first novel, White Pickups, is scheduled to be published in July. For more of his strange fiction, and even stranger reality, visit http://farmanor.blogspot.com
Xero says: Larry writes science fiction and fantasy laced with ideas and light humour. There's a humanity that shines through his work and really brings his characters to life.