Author : Bob Newbell

“We beat it!” Those were the words my lawyer had said to me right after sentencing. “It” was the death penalty. “Son, you shouldn’t have done this in Texas,” he’d said to me the first time we met. “This” referred to killing a man.

It happened in the middle of July. It was one of the hottest summers on record. There had been a power failure at the office. Power wouldn’t be restored until the following day. Nobody was too broken up about going home early, least of all me. It was about half past one when I pulled into my subdivision. There was a car in my driveway. I immediately recognized it as belonging to Jimmy. Jimmy and I had been best friends since elementary school.

I’d felt that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as soon as I saw the car, but I tried to ignore it. Jimmy had come by to see me, I told myself. Probably been here all of two minutes. Wait another minute and he’ll come right back out that front door. Of course, I knew what I would find when I went in the house.

This is where it starts to get blurry. It was a really long time ago, after all. I remember catching Jimmy and my wife in the act. I remember a lot of yelling. I remember the gunshot. I remember the cops cuffing me. The blood on the bed. My wife shaking uncontrollably.

The prosecutor had tried to get the death penalty. Maybe I deserved it. But I had a good lawyer. Maybe too good. He got me life without the possibility of parole. I was 45 years old when I was convicted. I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol and I’d smoked a pack-and-a-half of cigarettes a day since I was 17. My dad had died of a heart attack at 51. A life sentence didn’t seem all that bad.

I’d been in prison for about ten years when the Nanotech Revolution happened. Everything started advancing really quick. Robots, spaceships, all that science fiction stuff the movies and comic books predicted that never happened all became commonplace in just a few years. And everything became really cheap. “Self-replicating molecular assemblers,” they called ’em. Like tiny little robots that could build almost anything from dirt, water, and sunshine. Medicine got real advanced, too.

First they cured diabetes. Didn’t just come up with a better way to treat it, they really cured it. Heart disease, colon cancer, Alzheimer disease. One by one, nanotech cured all man’s ailments. Eventually, they announced they’d found a cure for aging itself. “Cell repair nanobots” and “telomeres” and a bunch of other stuff I never understood. And because all this nanotech medicine was so cheap, everybody was able to get it.

Including prisoners.

I’ve tried to commit suicide four times. They monitor me ’round the clock now. “They” being the machine guards, of course. Guarding prisoners is one of those jobs humans (and transhumans) won’t do.

Nations have risen and fallen around the prison. The Greater American Federated States is the name of the country that Texas belongs to at the moment.

I’ve been locked up for 485 years. They keep saying they’re gonna pass legislation to free us. Or to let us die. They’ve been saying that for almost 300 years. I wish to God that prosecutor had done his job right and got me the death penalty.


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