the Curse of a Heartbeat
I shouldn’t have agreed to it. I shouldn't have signed my name, but who didn't?
Questions race across my mind. Who am I? Where am I? My memories, wet with blood, come bubbling up from the black. I'm in another coma, I guess.
Tomorrow’s my birthday. I will be three-hundred and twenty-seven years old. The year is 2455.
They asked me if I wanted to live forever. Everyone did, of course. Now I’ve seen twenty-five wars, the last six of them civil. But we haven’t had a war for at least a century now…
In the 3rd civil war, I was still young. One-hundred and seventy-six, if I remember right. I was on patrol with the regiment. The sun was hot on our backs. All eight remaining species of trees were among us in the field. A small atom bomb landed behind us. I was dismembered, obliterated. Everything went black. Sweet, sweet rest swallowed me.
Then, there I was, lying on a silver platter with my mouth gaping and my eyes bleeding. With their lasers, cloned body parts, and 3d biological printers they had sewn me back together, one cell at a time. Like one big, gory jigsaw puzzle.
First, it was cold, so cold. I was attached to a machine, or maybe a dozen machines. The medibots brought me a new heart.
I remember it well. I grabbed the scalpel off a nearby tray and stabbed the new heart. And the next one, and the next, one after another, for hours. A red carpet splashed up against the stainless steel walls. The medibots had to bring in vacuums for the blood. It had covered the floor completely.
Finally, I gave up and felt a new beat.
A heartbeat is a curse if it never ends.
A flower that never wilts isn’t beautiful, it just is. An unchanging impression, a scar among the grass. Our eyes have become like the craters on the moons. Damn near eternal, only closing to blink.
Every past moment weighs on my mind, though I can’t remember many details… the human brain is only so capable. I don't care to remember, anyway, they have all my memories on file.
I’ve starved to death three times in the last century, it always ends in a coma. Comas are my favorite thing, like a long nap. Like falling into a bottomless hole.
But now I'm waking up again. The hole does have a bottom, after all.
It took sixty days this time. To starve, I mean.
A patrol ship must have picked up my body. They always know when a citizen passes into the dark. They go find them (they always find them) to drag them back into the light.
You can’t contribute to society if you’re dead. You can’t pay taxes if you’re six feet deep, or blown to bits in a field.
I'm beginning to see again, cold wires and polymer tubes. A familiar scene is before me. A row of medibots are hanging over each side of my bed.
I’ve killed myself forty-three times. They’ll be taking me back to the institution where I will live forever, of course.
Then, as I was lying on the table, my vision began to sharpen. A flash of cosmic insight lit up my freshly printed brain.
I was side by side with the rest of humanity, barren and endless, standing on the martian planes. All two million of us, shoulder to shoulder, staring ahead. Our bodies are not living, they're perpetual motion machines, bent on never changing. We have no new people. There hasn’t been a new birth for two centuries. We have no new ideas. We have no hope, for change. This is hell. We have created hell.
Perhaps ill kill myself again, tomorrow, on my birthday.
And perhaps the day after that.
And the one after that, and after that too.
I won’t give up, but I'm afraid ill never die.