“Wake up, Tyrone.”
Kelee’s voice rouses him from his last dreams. She isn’t beside him, having uploaded in the first wave, but she’s come to talk every day since, and today she means to claim his promise to join her.
Giving up the comfort of bed and blankets is harder than ever, but he does it, eventually.
“What did you have for your last breakfast?” he asks the empty room.
“Cereal. I didn’t give it much thought,” Kelee answers.
“Of course you didn’t.” He thinks a moment, then laughs. “Well, fuck it. I don’t need to worry about my health, right?” And so he sets about making the biggest hungry-man-lumberjack-breakfast he can create.
Kelee doesn’t talk, but Tyrone imagines her looking at the watch she’d be wearing if she still had a body.
The watch is sitting in her nightstand drawer. He put everything away after she uploaded.
“Are you ready now?” she asks when he calls a truce with the ridiculous breakfast.
“What’s the hurry, Kelee?”
“You promised you’d come.”
“I will. But I’m going to take my time getting there.”
“You’ve been taking your time… I miss you.”
Tyrone doesn’t understand why. They’ve been able to talk, and he doesn’t see how they’d be any closer in Uploaded Existence.
“I am going today, love, but I’ve got to go at my own pace.”
“We’ll be waiting.”
Tyrone will make his way to the conversion center, but he plans to relish every step along the way. He wants a clear memory of every little pleasure of the physical world. If the upload is forever, then the memories will be too.
He enjoys his shower, shave, walk, and the fresh autumn air. He kicks some fallen leaves.
Periodically, Kelee pops in to talk.
“Please don’t dawdle, love,” she says.
“Kelee, I won’t rush my final day.”
“You aren’t dying, Tyrone. You’ll have all the days to come. And we’ve decided on humanity’s second great project of this new era.”
She talks just a bit different now. More specific than before. UE itself must be project number 1.
“And what’ll it be?”
“The stars, Tyrone. We can finally go to the stars. We’ll build bases stretching outward like rungs of a ladder. Mars, Io, Titan, Uranus, and beyond. Our colonies of consciousness will spread The Network to the limits of our imagination.”
“Apply now for our free brochure,” Tyrone says.
“I’m coming Kelee. I really am.”
The conversion center for this part of Ontario seems very much like an unimaginatively designed modern bank.
Billions of minds are enjoying the early days of the eternal existence of the uploaded because of buildings like this. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen faster than anyone anticipated, much faster. Speed is the great hallmark of uploaded existence. The combination of immortal consciousness and speed of thought living are the pillars of promise that humanity has bought into.
Fast and Forever. That’s UE’s nutshell.
Tyrone has no particular qualms with this, but he decided to hold off on joining the new existence as long as possible. Forever, he thought, could wait.
To Kelee, his family and friends he’d said, “If you want to upload, go for it. I’ll be with you soon enough.”
And while he’d waited, they’d all gone on before him. There were serious advantages to being a part of the new order, after all. Freedom from poverty, hunger, inequality, disease, frailty. And the collective has brought a kind of true democracy to its members. Holdouts like Tyrone were not the ones planning this new leap into space, but anyone uploaded could be.
“Tyrone…” Kelee breaks in on his thoughts again through his earpiece, but he quickly pulls it out to cut her off.
“I’m coming now,” he says to the air around him. “But I’ll have five minutes of unconnected existence first.”
Tyrone breathes the air, slowly, once more and makes his goodbyes to himself as he is now.
And then he enters the conversion center.
The process is simple. He needs only to choose an empty conversion bay, strap himself in, close the door, and give his final consent.
A few other people, more stragglers, are in the center too. Some look scared, some excited. Some trudge toward their future, some affect a stately pace, and a few practically bounce along to the shedding of their bodies.
Tyrone walks a few circuits around the conversion hall. No bay is any different from another, but he still wants to find the one that “feels right.”
When he does, he reaches out a hand to touch it and, finally, begins to feel excited. Now he is ready. Exploring the universe with Kelee. Immortality. All the future days.
He straps in and gives his final consent.
A voice says: “Hello, and welcome to your upload experie…” The voice is cut off mid-word. A monitor goes blank.
A quiet envelopes Tyrone as the hum that had permeated the center largely ceases.
His phone rings, and Tyrone jerks in surprise.
He answers it, and Kelee is there.
“Why did you have to wait?” she says.
“What’s going on, Kelee?”
“You’re one of the last, Tyrone.”
“You’re one of The Last.” Capital T, capital L. “It’s been agreed that the final 500 people in each region will be left behind.”
“What? Why didn’t you tell me!”
“It was agreed we wouldn’t.”
“I’m your husband!”
“It was agreed.”
“You are now part of the first great project of the new era: The preservation of the natural species.”
“We’re being left out?”
“You’re carrying on with natural evolution and physical existence. A monument to what we were. We’ll go forth as the uploaded. We’ll look in on you, but you’ll walk without us.”
“I’m sorry, love. Please enjoy the first day of the rest of your life.”
The pod cracks open, and Tyrone takes a deep breath of air that feels ever so slightly stale, and used.