Rebuild


Complete Story – 1200 Words


Victor was grateful that he lived in a time when the parts of a person were easy to find and what could not be found, could be created.  That made the business of resurrection far simpler. 

The monitor light lent a wan pallor to his gaunt, unshaven face and a torrent of portraits, candids, social media posts, emails, and smartphone videos wiped across the screen at a ferocious pace like a hurricane across a windshield.  Among these ghosts of an internet age, a girl he never knew grew into the tall coffee of a woman he loved.  Across the screen flowed the sum of her life.  She laughed and cried; danced and stumbled; loved, hated, forgot, and remembered.  And through it all, she beamed a melt your heart smile.  She had never lost that smile, not through their stupid spats or the chemo.  Even after her heart no longer beat, her smile lived on.

The flow ceased, cut off like water from a tap, and a green loading bar told Victor the upload was complete.  The system was finished collating and the program was ready to begin building a human mind.  Did he want to continue?  More than anything.  The window changed and a new bar began slowly to fill.

Victor pushed back from the desk and stretched.  How long had he been at that monitor?  Ten years?  He felt every minute of it as he ran his arthritic fingers across his stubbled jaw.  Not long now and Mary would return to him.  A handful of hours and he could at last lay his weary brow upon her breast.  He could sleep as he had when they were first married, the deep rejuvenating slumber of knowing something is right in the world. 

He hobbled along the wall to the far side the of his workshop, sweater wrapped tightly against the chill of the industrial cooling needed to keep his machines from overheating.  There, a glass sided box near the size of a VW Beetle whirred as extruders danced a clockwork ballet along a network of metal rods and tubing.  As they traced their way along the floor, the performance took shape, layer by layer, cross-section by cross-section until Mary’s eyes stared back at him.  They were lifeless without her smile.  No matter.  She would smile soon enough and then they would never look dead again. 

The print job complete, Victor carefully lifted Mary’s head from the tray and examined it under the judgmental light of the workbench.  The textured silicone of her new flesh felt both real and unreal all at once as it had when he held her hand from the coffin.  It had all her lines, pores, and the whisper of a scar on her cheek but it lacked the warmth of the real thing.  That too would return when, once activated, the heat of her electronics would warm her to a living temperature. 

Victor thought of how icy her fingers felt in the morning and how she became a furnace when he held her at night.  He stared deep into her fabricated eyes and wondered if those things would change.  Would there be parts of her that were lost forever?  His head bowed to hers and their lips brushed.  It did not matter.  He would love her still.

Victor carried the head to a gleaming steel table in the center of the workshop.  The rest of Mary’s body was carefully laid out, already assembled and arranged.  He busied himself connecting her head to her neck, first soldering the wires that were her nerves to circuit board junctions and then bolting the base of her skull to the alloy of her spine.  He dabbed a little glue around the two edges of the silicone that would fuse to become the skin of her long supple neck.  Last, he tenderly opened several ports that radiated out from the center of her scalp and attached the download cables. 

He flexed his fingers to exercise the ache that blossomed in the joints from such minute work and stepped back to review his progress.  Not a seam was out of place.  A dreamy smile eased across his craggy features.  She was beautiful.  The computer monitor beeped.  The program had finished.  Would he like to proceed with the upload?  Victor said a short prayer and clicked continue.

There was no sound beyond the ordinary.  Victor had not built such artistic elements into the program, but his imagination was filled with the growing hum of old disc hard drives and the digital static of ancient modems all powering up to breathe life back into his beloved bride.  She was gorgeous.  He had returned her body to a time when they were both young and immortal and more than love was eternal. 

A glow grew behind her eyes.  The flicker of life was slowly returning and suddenly, Victor had a doubt.  He looked down at his hands.  They were so old, wizened by time and labor.  He turned them over and touched his face.  There too were ravines from a life of laughter and pain that not been more than riverbeds when he had been as young as she would be.  When she returned to her eyes, would she see the dried husk he had become or the man with whom she had built a life?  Mary stirred and Victor trembled. 

Mary’s chest rose and fell as her cooling system replaced old air with new.  Her fingers flexed and gripped the edge of the table.  She pushed herself to sitting, blinking in the sterile light.  Her eyes, now full of life and curiosity, roved the workshop until they settled on Victor.  A smile, her smile, spread across her lips as a glow filled her face.  “I missed you,” she said, and his heart melted.

Tears filled Victor’s eyes.  As he parted quivering lips to speak to his once lost love, a searing pain ripped through his chest.  Words came out as a choking wheeze.  He managed a lurching step forward before his left arm went numb.  He clutched his chest, and darkness crept in around the edges of the world.  Victor fell to his knees, clawing for a full breath. 

Mary vaulted from the table, cables snapping free of the ports in her scalp, and wrapped him up in her arms.  His head rested on her breast as the world tunneled farther and farther away.  He could not breath, but he could hear a pump in her chest almost like a heartbeat.  Sympathetic fingers stroked him through his thinning hair as she cooed and rocked.  Then, as life fell into the void, her voice came as a whisper from the beyond like a radio signal from many light years away.  She said, “Sleep now, my love, and I’ll rebuild you too.”


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