It happened slowly at first. A cell here, a finger there. Element by
element, I was rebuilt.
I'd wanted to live forever since I was ten. My grandmother died in her sleep,
next to a man that was not my grandfather. Grandpa had left us nine years
earlier. I don't remember him at all. Grandma's boyfriend (what a teenage-sounding
word!) was named Tom. He was younger than she was, and took her dancing. He refused
to eat cottage cheese or play the lottery, or drink decaf. He didn't want to be
old. Grandma was not very old, really: only sixty or so. My parents were young
when they had me.
Death in sleep is anticlimactic. You don't get the chilling moment of realization,
or the life-passing-before-your-eyes thing. You just drift away, as if you never
existed at all, like dissipating smoke. There is no consciousness left to
sustain you. It ends there.
Me? I cling to consciousness. I hate sleep, though I like lying in bed with my
love, his warm skin snuggled against the cool alloy of my midsection. He doesn't
mind that my eyes are now two different colors (one hazel, one silver.) We stopped
discussing certain things a long time ago, though: he is not going to undergo
replacement of any sort. I miss him already: when he holds me at night my body sometimes clenches with dark dread thinking about the day when his belly will be hard and cold against my back,
rather than warm and supple. I will miss him forever.
Time moves in fits and starts. One day, the two of us spent a lifetime talking.
We spoke of galaxies, we spoke of molecules. He refuses to believe that everything
is predetermined; the god of uncertainty is his muse. I believe that I was meant to
live forever. I am not a religious woman, but I worship metal and plastic and
nanoconstructed alloys with the fervor normally reserved for deities. I worship
the air and the night. I pray to electrons and serve wine in honor of discovery.
I stopped crying last year. Since birth, I've had a problem with tears; meaning that
they come at the wrong times in front of the wrong people. Crybaby, crybaby they
would say. I always told myself I'd outgrow it. In a way perhaps I have, for my eyes
no longer form liquid tears when I'm upset. I have a special subroutine that takes over
when something distressing happens. Signal interrupt: no more crying. My love was not
pleased with my decision to be modified in this manner; he'd gotten used to my tears, he
had come to see my oversensitivity as endearing. But tears dry me out and humiliate me.
When my love passes away, only then will I deactivate the No More Tears routine. For
once, I want them to mean something, not just represent the drippy sniveling of a petulant girl who
has lost the third game of Go in a row. I've always been a sore loser.
There was another day that seemed over as soon as it began. My love and I drove up to
the cabin, to await the evening and see the stars glisten in the cold cloudless sky. The
grass was thick with frost, and we had to be careful on the slippery rocks that dotted
the driveway. Our footprints were still there in the frost the next morning, yet now it
was time to go back to the city. The previous day had scarcely managed to register.
My brain is largely unmodified, except for the anti-crying thing. I'm insured against
degenerative diseases and bad grammar, but my personality is intact. When you replace a
person's cells and substructures very, very gradually, the sense of self is retained. The
cells you are born with are largely different from the cells that marry or go off to war
or die with you. You are the sum of your memories and experiences. Each civilzation of
cells within the body passes on its impressions to the next generation. Your nails grow,
your hair gets longer, your skin flakes off into your sheets. Yet you are still you.
This morning, as I lie curled up waiting for the alarm grafted to my inner ear to go
off, I pretend that the warmth of my pseudometal skin is not leached from my lover, but
generated from within. It is a pleasant illusion, but an illusion nonetheless. A wisp of
icy breeze floats in through the partially open window, bringing with it the sweetness of
honeysuckle and the chirping of an artificial bird. How long, I think, will we sustain this
existence, in limbo between machine and nature?
My love drapes his arm across me, and I clutch it against my bare chest. I'm going to
live forever: the land of morning light and morning smells will beckon me to waking until
the Sun gets red and hot. Only then will this little robot, who was once a thing of flesh, follow the sun.