Author : Ian Rennie

Anton opens the door with a blank face. He is worried, but can’t show it any more.

“How’s she doing?” I ask.

“Not good,” Anton replies, expression neutral and voice flat, “I think she’s dying.”

I move past him without a word. Laverne is lying in bed, her breathing shallow and pained. Her image glitches as I move towards her. I know at once what is wrong, but professionalism makes me take the long way round. I gesture and her code opens. It only takes a moment to know for sure, and once I do I close her back up. Anton’s face doesn’t change, but I know the sight of Laverne’s code unnerves him.

“Laverne,” I say, bedside manner in place, “There’s something I need you to do.”

“Wh-” she starts and her voice scrambles. She tries again, “What is it, doctor?”

“You’re running out of storage space. I need you to sacrifice something.”

She knew this was coming. When it happens, they all do. Since the digitization, storage has been at a premium. The most common problem any of us face is running out of room for everything. Each new skill, each new experience, takes up more space, and eventually we all run out. Eventually we all have to choose.

Laverne’s brows crease in thought and pain before she answers.

“Singing,” she says “That takes up a lot of room. Take that.”

“No,” Anton says, entirely flat and bland, “Not your voice. Something else but not your singing voice.”

If he could, he’d be crying right now. He sacrificed expression a few years ago, so he is left with dull words. Tears are in Laverne’s eyes as he speaks.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers, “Take singing, doctor.”

It’s a simple procedure. She doesn’t even have to go offline for it. Within a minute, she is sleeping peacefully as her new code defragments itself, leaving her with another year of space to fill. Anton leads me to the door once it is done.

“Thank you,” he says, and his words contain neither gratefulness nor sorrow, relief nor hate, but I know they are all there.

As I walk away, I wonder if I felt the same when they were taking my memories. I couldn’t sacrifice skills, they needed someone in here who knew how to repair the others, but to get all that in me I had to lose everything else, every memory of me before I was the doctor. I no longer remember even what else I had to give up.

I head towards my next house call, wondering what my name had been.


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