Author : Jim Wisniewski

She smiles and tilts her head to push a lock of brown hair behind her ear. I run the image back a few seconds and watch it again, entranced as always by the fluidity of the motion. The machines can show me any moment of her life, but this is the one I keep coming back to. Such grace, such elegance encompassed in so simple a gesture. Even so there is no sense of artifice in it. The beauty is simply a part of her, in everything she does.

I play the scene back in slow motion, studying every changing nuance of her face. The detail of the image is excellent, now. Resolution was low in the early days of the project, but at this point there’s enough holoscopes to sift even the tiniest detail from the shell of thirty-year-old photons. Before long we’ll push the cloud out to a hundred light-years and begin again. That much distance will be hard on the algorithms, but with enough patience we’ll see everything. Dirichlet will not be denied.

A changing shadow on the wall alerts me to one of my colleagues passing by in the hall. As casually as I can, I flip over to a different display until the coast is clear again. Everyone knows some bandwidth goes towards personal uses, but we’re not supposed to flaunt it.

Not that they’d understand anyway. This way I can be with her at every point in time, sharing in each completed perfect moment. Here I wince at the pain when she was twelve and broke her wrist. There I feel the stress when she has to decide which school to pick and which friends to leave behind. Laughing along with her and her classmates at the commencement party, worrying about her new job, right up until the accident–

I don’t watch that far ahead, usually.

It’s better this way, it really is. Unrequited love is the purest kind. Watching from out here we will never fight, never grow distant and drift apart. She will never age. Photons don’t experience time flying along their lightlike paths. I suppose they carry my own image outwards as well, to anybody who knows how to look closely enough.

But no matter how long I watch, I can’t seem to find myself in the picture with her.

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